12/26/12

Guesting

While I’ve been absent from my own blog, I’ve been present elsewhere on the web.

Here are links to three guest posts I’ve done recently for other writer friends.

Anne Baxter Campbell

Catherine Leggitt

Kathy Harris and her Divine Detour

Thanks for clicking through! And thank you to each of these ladies for hosting me for a day.

12/23/12

Bet You’ve Figured It Out Already

Yes, I’m on hiatus until January. I’ve been reading some good stuff lately and I can’t wait to tell you about them.

I’m also watching every smarmy Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movie I can. I think I have twenty or so backed up on the DVR. I may have to delete a few to make room for the good stuff, like What Not To Wear which begins again in January.

This is a busy time of year and often, at least for me, that busy-ness keeps me distracted from truly being present in the moment and enjoying the season of togetherness with family and friends. I’m looking forward to slowing down in the next week to ten days and savoring some special moments.

I hope you do the same.

See you in 2013!

11/30/12

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

 
We had an impromptu Thanksgiving break last week. Thanks for coming back this week!

The Bandbox Hat

Previously: During a group bowling date, Austin and SarahJane interrupt SarahJane’s brother and Amanda in a kiss. Austin and SarahJane return to their lunch. He tells her that his mother was a child actress with a hit show twenty-five years ago. No one else on the show has recognized her.
Chapter Forty-Two
Linda strode toward us. I searched her features, looking for the young Madeleine I remembered from when I was April’s age and watching Nickelodeon reruns while waiting for Mom to look over my homework.
“It’s confessional time.” She pointed to the side of the bowling alley. A camera and lighting umbrellas were clustered around a chair. “You’re up first. I’ll chat with SarahJane while you talk.”
She tucked her arm through mine and led me toward the soda fountain again. “How are you, SarahJane?”
I smothered a smile. She sounded so sincere, but according to Austin it was all an act. Or mostly anyway. How could I draw the truth from her? I’d always been fairly intuitive, able to guess if a student was cheating by looking at their neighbor’s paper or when April was intent on eating two desserts. “We had a lovely lunch,” I finally said. “Except for – well, never mind.”
“I heard Amanda has switched her attentions from Austin to Nathan. How do you feel about that?”
“News travels fast around here.” I sighed. “I’m not sure how I feel. I don’t like her, but who knows if it’s because of the falseness of this whole thing? If we taught at the same school or worked at the same Gap store or had something else in common besides this stupid show, who knows, maybe we’d be BFFs.”
Linda smiled. “Somehow I doubt it. But it’s a nice thought.”
“You know about all of us, Linda, but I really don’t know you at all,” I said. Maybe I could get a few questions in before it was her turn in the confessional.
The sounds of bowling balls rolling down smooth wood alleys and sending pins flying reached us. I closed the soda fountain doors.
“You know the thing I’m most proud of in all the world,” she said. “My son.”
I had to smile. “He’s special, all right. Where did you guys live when he was growing up?”
“Rancho Cucamonga, which is as much fun to live in as it is to say.” She perched on one of the stools at the counter. “Is there soda in here?”
I pulled a Coke out of the old-fashioned cooler and twisted off the cap before handing it to her. “Did you work?”
She shook her head. “I enjoyed being home and I was blessed to be able to.”
“You never got the urge to do anything different? Go on Real Housewives of Orange County?”
“Reality television is a pretty new thing, comparatively speaking. When I was raising Austin, the only real things on were the news and game shows.”
“My mother went on The Price is Right once. Did you ever do anything like that?” I asked it as casually as I could but kept an eagle eye on her expression.
She grinned. “I tried out for Jeopardy! once but didn’t make the final cut.”
“Oh, that’s too bad. Do you remember any of the questions?” I did a mental eye roll at my inane questions. This was ridiculous. So what if Linda was a former child actress. She was here to help her son find love.
“No, it’s been too long.” She sipped her Coke and looked through the glass doors to the games going on outside. And not just in the alleys. If I stood on my tiptoes and craned my head, I caught a glimpse of Amanda’s backside waving in Nathan’s face as she helped another girl sitting in front of the scoring monitor.
Linda followed my gaze and smiled. “Tonight’s another charm ceremony. We’re whittling you all down.”
I nodded. That’s right. Besides getting to know Austin and Linda and keeping an eye on Nathan and Amanda, I should be worrying about getting a new charm to add to my bracelet. I ran a finger over the smooth trinkets already attached. A volleyball. A horse. A champagne flute. Presumably each one meant something pertinent to that week’s episode, but since I wasn’t invited on all the dates, I had no way of knowing for sure. I could guess that Austin and Cassie and Amanda and a few other girls had gone horseback riding on their group date last week. Actually, I knew they had. Cassie told me all about it. But still, if I were a viewer at home, I’d be able to infer quite a bit from these bracelets.
“Okay, Mom, your turn.” Austin pushed through the doors. “And SarahJane, we’ve been told to get back to bowling. We’ve frittered away enough time talking, now it’s time for some action shots.”
I smiled at his enthusiasm. “We’re coming.”
Linda drained her soda bottle and tossed it into the blue recycling barrel behind the faux soda counter. “Indeed we are.”


























11/28/12

Wednesday! The Next Big Thing Blog Hop


I’m thrilled to be a part of The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. It’s kind of like a chain letter for writers and bloggers. I was nominated by Victoria Pitts-Caine who talked about her new books coming out from PRISM Book Group.

Read on for details about my current project. At the bottom, I’ve nominated five other writers who will post their own answers to these questions next Wednesday, December 5th.

What is the working title of your book?                                 
Against The Peace
Where did the idea come from for the book?
That’s a long story. I was watching a Lifetime movie about a young actress who goes to live with a “normal” family, though I don’t remember why. She looks around and mutters something about being in the Witness Security program. I couldn’t hear her enunciate and had to back it up several times to try and hear if she was saying “Witness Protection” or “Witless Protection.” I never did decide for sure which it was. Later, while I was walking in the neighborhood, it occurred to me that Witless Protection would be a great name for a humorous suspense story about the Witness Security Program. I finished the story but found there wasn’t much of a market for humorous suspense. The story has evolved from a love triangle between a young woman, her boyfriend and the marshal protecting him to a straight romance between the woman and the marshal. Instead of her boyfriend being in peril, the bad guys are after her because she witnessed them murder one of her janitorial company’s clients. Along with the boyfriend, I had to lose the too humorous Witless Protection name.
What genre does your book fall under?                            
Romantic Suspense
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?                                                                             Cricket Spencer is Amy Adams.
U.S. Marshal Lucas Holden is Jeffrey Dean Morgan.                                                   






What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
What if a woman who hated violence and guns is threatened and her only hope lies in a man who carries a gun every day and makes his living on the edge of violence?
          Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

           I’m still hopeful that it will find a home with a traditional publisher, but if not, I’m happy to             self-publish it.


How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?   
The original Witless Protection took about 3 months, including 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo a few years ago. The new version is still being written, another NaNoWriMo project.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?   
I love Dee Henderson and Irene Hannon’s romantic suspense. I would never presume to compare myself to them, but I wouldn’t be hurt if someone else did. Winking smile 
Who or What inspired you to write this book? 
See above for the whole story, but it started with the original name, Witless Protection. As the story changed and progressed, it became obvious the name no longer fit. My local Sisters in Crime chapter once had a speaker who was a former London police officer and he said many of the phrases and words in the British penal code would make great book titles. Like “Against the Peace.” That stuck with me and given that a marshal’s job is to protect people from violence, it seemed fitting.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 
Cricket Spencer is a “green” cleaning lady. She owns a janitorial company that uses only eco-friendly products. Her parents are aging hippies who live out their convictions. They escaped a cult-like leader’s compound when Cricket was a child. The ensuing gunfight left her with a deep and abiding fear of guns.

Now, I nominate five other writers. Check their blogs next Wednesday, December 5th to read about their projects. I’m so thankful to each for participating with me. I can’t wait to read what they’re working on.


My friend and critique partner: Beth Shriver
My friend and once upon a time critique partner: Lisa Lickel
My ACFW associate: Kathy Harris
My friend and trusted advisor: Julie Carobini


11/27/12

Book Talk Tuesday: The Next Best Thing

I was a little surprised to get a call last week from the library saying the book I had requested was ready to be picked up. I couldn’t remember requesting anything, but figured maybe I’d been sleep browsing.

I was still more surprised when I saw Jennifer Weiner’s The Next Best Thing waiting with my name on it.

I’ve heard of Weiner but hadn’t read anything by her yet. So she’s been on my “Get-around-to-her-one-of-these-days” list for a long time. I know I saw her on the Today show a few months ago talking about her latest book with Harlan Coben, whom I love. I presume that combined with reading a few reviews convinced me to request this.

I’m glad I did.

It’s not inspirational fiction. But it’s not as gratuitous as it could have been. Upfront warning: There were two parts I skimmed over.

The voice is lively and likeable. The characters are not the usual Hollywood archetypes even though they work there.

Ruthie Saunders lost her parents in a car accident that also left her scarred and needing years of plastic surgery. Now all grown up, she and her grandma move to LA to tackle the world of television writing.

The book takes Ruthie and her new show through pilot season on to the network’s fall schedule.

Weiner has worked in Hollywood and her insider knowledge makes Ruthie particularly sharp in her observations. She acknowledges her own failings in standing up to the network for her vision and her show, and debates what constitutes the greater good.

Ruthie’s scars are visible but Weiner shows us that others have wounds just as deep and painful, though hidden.

My criticism is extremely picky. As a native Californian, I know you don’t drive from Massachusetts to California and see Yosemite on the way. Particularly if your last night before arriving in LA is spent in Las Vegas. Maybe Weiner meant Yellowstone.

And Ruthie references an online journal that published her short story and she says she was paid in contributor copies. Now I’ve been published online and in magazines. I’ve been paid in contributor copies. But only for print magazines. I don’t see how an online journal can send contributor copies.

Both of those are teeny tiny points that prove what a petty person I really am, so there you go.

Over all, I enjoyed The Next Best Thing a lot and will move Weiner higher up on my “When-I-get-around-to-it” list.

11/22/12

Thankful Thursday

 

Oops. Catherine’s web site is experiencing technical difficulties. My post will appear in December. I’ll let you know when it’s up.

In the meantime, here’s a hint:

Do you ever see a blessing in the midst of the hard stuff?

11/21/12

Woe! It’s Wednesday: Being Thankful

This is going to be short. I’m guest blogging tomorrow on Catherine Leggitt’s blog about blessings.

So please click through to Catherine’s website tomorrow to see my post about blessings and thanksgiving.

11/20/12

Book Talk Tuesday: The Red Suit Diaries: A Real Life Santa on Hopes, Dreams, and Childlike Faith

 

The Red Suit Diaries: A Real-Life Santa on Hopes, Dreams, and Childlike FaithI’ve had this one on my Kindle for nearly a year. I read the first half shortly after Christmas. Then it slipped to the back of the list and I forgot about it. With the season quickly approaching again, I dipped back in and read to the end.

Ed Butchart is a part-time Santa and full time spreader of good cheer. Besides his Santa gig, Butchart founded a charity that repairs and distributes wheelchairs and other medical equipment.

Butchart tells how he began his Santa career as well as anecdotes about the children whose lives he’s touched and who have touched his. He takes his Santa seriously and is always mindful about what Santa says and does to the innocent.

The writing style is downhome and easy to read, but not simplistic. His love for what he does shines through. The book can be read straight through or a daily reader. The selections are fairly short and can be read in a single sitting.

Christians who disapprove of Santa as stealing Jesus’ spotlight during the Christmas season would get a different perspective. Butchart is an unapologetic evangelical Christian who melds his faith with Santa Claus.

I recommend this to start your Christmas season off right. Especially if you’re having a Bah! Humbug sort of year.

11/16/12

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

 

The Bandbox Hat

Previously: During a group bowling date, Austin accidentally lets go of a ball too soon and it almost hits SarahJane. He apologizes by taking her on a private date in the alley’s 1950’s style diner. While they’re eating, they hear noises coming from the kitchen. When they investigate, they find Nathan and Amanda kissing.

Chapter Forty-One

At least Nathan had to good grace to look sheepish as he ran a hand through his hair. “Hi, SarahJane. Austin.”

I felt a nudge at my side and turned.

“Let’s go,” Austin said. “We’ve got our own date.” He leaned close to whisper in my ear. “There are still cameras here, even if they’re not in our faces.

I gave Nathan a glare but managed a wobbly smile for Austin. “Yes, we do.” Showing Nathan my back gave me a moment’s satisfaction.

Austin and I sat again but I’d lost my appetite.

He covered my hand with his. “Let’s pretend it never happened. Maybe it won’t be in the show.”

“I wish, but even I’m not that naïve. I know we’re going to be the teaser for this episode.”

He let go of my hand and picked up his burger. “Maybe. Or maybe something even more exciting will happen. Maybe … maybe we’ll catch my mom behind the lanes.”

I laughed. “Your mom has sense enough to avoid dark places.”

“Then we’ll have to improvise. Do something shocking ourselves.”

“I want to avoid being the teaser, not ensure it.” His easy manner did help unknot my stomach muscles and I sighed.

“Oh, right. Well, we can lock Amanda and a few other girls in the restroom. They might turn on each other.”

“Is this place really wired for sound and pictures all through the building?” I hadn’t taken the time earlier, but now I looked at the ceiling and wasn’t surprised to see the opaque half-globes that meant a camera was watching.

“I think so.” He put down his burger and leaned back in his chair. A bit of ketchup clung to his lower lip.

“You’ve got a little something—” I pointed.

He gave me a wicked grin. “I know.”

Heat flashed up my cheeks.

“I lost my napkin in the excitement of catching your brother and Amanda.”

I handed him mine. “Here.”

He laughed out loud, a carefree sound that unleashed my own pent up giggles. With a swipe of white paper across his mouth, he removed the red splotch.

I felt oddly deflated, like that ketchup had been an invitation or a test. I didn’t get the feeling that I’d failed, but I definitely didn’t do as well as I should have, given that I was a teacher.

“Shall we bowl some more?” He stood and extended his hand.

I took it and we walked back into the main area. “Thank you for lunch. It was delicious.”

“My pleasure.” He stopped in front of me and took my hands. “I mean that. I know this is crazy, trying to meet people and start relationships surrounded by other women, cameras, and production people all telling us where to look and turn. When all I want to do is spend some time talking like normal people do on dates. But since that’s not going to happen for at least a few more weeks, I want to tell you that I’ve enjoyed every conversation we’ve had, SarahJane.”

I couldn’t help the smile his words brought to my lips. “Me too. And that goes for your mom as well.”

His eyes crinkled. “She’s something else, isn’t she?”

“She sure is.” Strangely enough, as sweet as Austin’s speech was, it was still a speech and felt rehearsed. But when I thought about Linda, the opposite feeling came. She was completely relaxed and casual. “How does she do it?” I asked. “She seems like she’s the same person whether cameras are around or not.”

He leaned in close. “Can you keep a secret?”

I mimicked locking my lips and tossing the key over my shoulder.

His breath tickled my neck under my ear and my shoulder reflexed into a shrug. “She’s a former actress. No one knows. I mean, of course the production company does, but none of the other women here have recognized her.”

I pulled back to look him in the eyes. “Really? Should I know her?”

He shrugged. “Ever heard of a show called The Samantha Scheme?”

I pulled away to stare at him. “Are you kidding me? Your mom was Samantha?”

He shook his head. “No, she was Samantha’s best friend, Madeleine.”

“I watched that show in reruns when I was in fourth grade.”

He nodded. “She did a few other things after that, but decided not to act anymore. But never forget, she’s an actress. A very capable actress.”

“Austin! SarahJane!”

Austin leaned close. “Speak of the devil.” He turned and waved. “Hi, Mom.”

11/14/12

Woe! It’s Wednesday

Things are calming down. A little.

One daughter is moved and adjusting to her new job. The other is working and taking care of an injured husband and a fussy toddler. Stud muffin is counting down his days to retirement while measuring how long his hair is.

Yep, he’s letting it grow. After 29 and a half years of having to be clean shaven with short hair and adhering to grooming standards, he’s already starting to let his hair grow. He’s (sort of) keeping it off his collar, but he hasn’t cut the rest of it for a couple of months now. He’s looking pretty scraggly. Almost unkempt. In a way that’s new for him.

He’s gotten a few comments at work, but his attitude is, What are they gonna do? Fire me? He’s gotten some double takes and askance looks at church and out shopping. His daughters hate it and never fail to let him know their feelings.

Several friends and family members think he’s crazy. And they think I’m even crazier for “letting” him do it.

I have mixed emotions. I’m not crazy about the longer locks. But I do recognize his need to rebel a little now. He’s worked hard for 35 years to provide for me and his family. If he wants to quit getting haircuts, I think it’s his business. I don’t want him telling me how to color or cut my hair. I’m not about to dictate his choices in the same matters.

Now, when we get to what he wears, that’s a whole different matter. He tells people that I dress him, so my reputation is on the line when he goes out in scruffy sweats. I scolded him recently for wearing a shirt out to lunch and shopping that had been relegated to the Not in Public section of his closet. It’s stained. The collar is fraying.

He crossed a line and must be stopped. If the shirt makes one more public appearance, it’ll be placed in the dumpster.

He can wear his hair how he likes but I do have some standards.

11/13/12

Book Talk Tuesday: On My Nightstand

I’ve been busy writing and helping my daughter move and reading a test copy of a friend’s newest novel. I haven’t finished anything longer than a magazine article in a week or more, so instead of a review, here’s a taste of what’s on my nightstand, Mt. TBR, and my Kindle.

In no particular order, this is what I’m looking forward to:

 Against All OddsIrene Hannon

Against All Odds.  I mentioned this one before. I’m still about 15 pages in and I can’t wait to get back to it.

 

 

Lisa Samson  Lisa Samson: Quaker Summer   Quaker Summer. Every Lisa Samson book I’ve read is completely different from the others. Except for the distinct and believable characters, original plots, and life-changing themes.

Dee Henderson, Full Disclosure    I’ve been a Dee Henderson fan for years. Her O’Malley series was really my introduction to Christian romantic suspense and she set the bar really high.

Liz Curtis Higgs, A Wreath of Snow is (I expect) Lizzie at her finest. A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs

Historical. Scottish. Christmas. Need I say more?

TWHN final w/ endorse   To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander, simply one of the best historical writers out there. It’s on my Kindle and it’s killing me to leave it in the To Be Read file.

Just writing these snippets has me ready to go curl up with one of these!

11/9/12

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

 

The Bandbox Hat

Previously: SarahJane and Cassie arrive at a bowling date with Austin and his mom. SarahJane notices there are no cameras around and no Nathan, even though he’s supposed to be on the show now too.

Chapter Forty

A half hour later we were finishing up the first game. I’d thrown a couple gutter balls, a strike and a few spares. Cassie and Linda did about the same. Austin though was a natural.

“Strike!” Cassie hollered as Austin turned and bowed toward us. “Well done.”

“Thank you, fair lady.” Austin strolled back to the ball return. “Last frame. Let’s see if I can do it again.”

The machine clunked and shuddered and spit the shiny green ball along the track. He resumed his place at the approach. Stepped. Swung the ball back. And let go.

I gasped and ducked as it sailed past my head and thunked on the floor behind me.

Austin whirled. “SarahJane!”

“Are you all right?” Cassie and Linda hurried to me.

“I’m okay,” I said, waving them off. “But what are you doing, Austin? Downsizing the dating pool by taking us out one by one instead of withholding bracelet charms?”

“I’m so sorry.” He skidded to a stop and dropped to his knees in front of me. “I don’t know what happened.”

“No harm. At least to me.” In truth, I shook from the close call. The ball hadn’t touched me, but I felt the tailwind as it sailed by.

“Let me make it up to you.” He stood and reached out a hand. “Mom, Cassie, we’re taking a break. Be back in a few. You go on and play.”

Linda and Cassie waved and moved back to the electronic scoreboard.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

He took my hand and led me up the stairs to the upper level of the bowling alley. We headed toward the neon sign announcing the Strike Zone diner.

“Right here.” He pushed the door open and held it for me.

Instead of the dingy greasy spoon I expected, the Strike Zone was a darling café, decorated like a 1950s soda fountain. One white wrought iron table sat in the middle with two chairs. Burgers and fries in red plastic baskets and two chocolate shakes in glass mug waited.

“This is for me?” My voice faltered and I cleared my throat. “I mean, you didn’t have to invite me to a private date just because you nearly killed me. You already apologized.”

His dimple grew as he grinned. “I already planned to ask you to lunch. The thrown ball just a nice excuse to get you away from the others.”

Oh. My cheeks felt warm as we took our seats.

“To you.” Austin lifted his shake and toasted me.

I clinked my mug to his and took a sip. “Hmmm. Malt. I haven’t had a real malt since I left Rosedale.” To my horror, tears filled my eyes.

“SarahJane.” Austin gave me a stricken look. “I’m so sorry. I swear it was an accident.”

“I know that, silly.” I sniffed and managed to keep talking. “When I thought of Rosedale, I guess I got a sudden jolt of homesickness. I’m fine. Really.” I shook salt over my fries. “How did they get the food ready at the perfect moment?”

“Well, they are professionals.” He waggled his eyebrows as he took a bite out of his cheeseburger. “Now, I think today’s date agenda is sharing something from our childhood. Since we already know that you’re homesick, you want to go first and tell me all about Rosedale?”

I swallowed before answering. “Not much to tell. It’s a small town in Central California. I love it there.”

“What brought you to L.A.?”

A clatter sounded. “That came from the kitchen.” I nodded toward the double doors with the round windows behind Austin.

“Liam?” Austin called. “Is that part of the date? What do we do?”

Silence. Then another sound, like something metal dropping onto a hard floor. Followed by a giggle and a hushing sound.

Austin and I exchanged a glance. He put a finger over his lips. I pointed at the doors and raised my brows. He nodded.

We tiptoed to the door and together poked our heads up to look through the portholes.

I gasped and pushed the door open. It clanged against an aluminum table.

“Nathan! What’s going on?”

My brother pushed away the girl he’d been kissing. She tucked a loose strand of hair behind one ear and flashed me a look of triumph. Amanda.

11/7/12

Woe! It’s Wednesday

We’re in the midst of a tough season. Literally and figuratively.

It’s November and still in the upper 70s to low 80s during the day. I don’t know what to wear.

One of our daughters is overwhelmed with stress. Things completely out of her hands keep throwing her hard balls. She’s ducking and catching but some of them are hitting her right in the head.

Stud muffin is counting down the days until his retirement. This will mean a change in lifestyle for us. He’ll be around even more than he is now. I’ve always made it a habit to stop what I’m doing and respond when he needs something, whether it’s pointing out the milk in the front of the refrigerator or holding the log while he runs a chain saw through it. That’s worked well for us. But when he’s here 24/7, I don’t think I do that and continue to do the things I need to do to write and run a home.

Our son-in-law is facing his second back surgery in a year and a half. Our daughter will be taking care of him as well as her toddler and second grader, while still working.

Good friends are experiencing health and family struggles and great loss.

The only constant right now is stress and change.

I’m trying to focus on the unchangeable.

God is in charge.

He knows what He’s doing.

And when I stress or worry I go back to those two things.

God is in charge and He knows what He’s doing.

Repeat after me:

God is in charge and He knows what He’s doing.

11/6/12

Book Talk Tuesday: A Few of My Favorites

No single title review today. I’m going to be on Central Valley Today at 11 am on Channel 24, KSEE. One of the questions I’m expecting is “Who are your favorite authors?” I know in the moment that I’ll forget someone I love and will feel bad that I missed the opportunity to give them a shout out. So, just in case, here’s a short list of who moves to the top of my To Be Read mountain. I’m going to make some sub-categories. ABA=American Booksellers Association (the general market). CBA=Christian Booksellers Association (the Christian/faith/inspirational market).

In no particular order:

ABA:

 

Mystery:

  • Harlan Coben
  • Dean Koontz (this is a sort of a lie. Most of his stuff is too spooky for me. Although The Husband is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Really. I sent him one of my “charming notes” and received a personal reply. He’s now one of my most favorite people whom I’ve never met and whose books I mostly don’t read. But I love him.)
  • J.D. Robb
  • Margaret Maron
  • Julia Spencer-Fleming
  • Alexander McCall Smith
  • Lisa Gardener
  • Elizabeth Peters
  • James Scott Bell

Women’s Fiction/Romance:

  • Kristan Higgins
  • Claire Cook
  • LuAnne Rice
  • Jodi Picoult
  • Susan Wiggs

Non-Fiction:

  • Malcolm Gladwell

CBA:

Mystery/Suspense:

  • Dee Henderson
  • Sean Grady
  • Michael Berrier
  • Alton Gansky
  • Irene Hannon  (This one is another sort of lie. She’s been highly recommended to me by someone I trust so I have one of her books on my nightstand now. I’ve barely started it, but I can tell she’s a keeper and belongs on this list.)
  • Victoria Pitts-Caine

Women’s Fiction/Romance:

  • Deborah Raney
  • Liz Curtis Higgs
  • Kathryn Cushman
  • Susan May Warren
  • Julie Carobini
  • Anne Mateer
  • Tamera Alexander
  • Gayle Roper
  • Beth Shriver
  • Michelle Ule

Non-Fiction:

  • Patsy Clairmont
  • Anne Lamott
  • Liz Higgs
  • Madeleine L’Engle

Young Adult:

  • L.T. Kodzo
  • Lisa Bergeron

I’ve probably forgotten a few, but I have to stop somewhere.

How about you? Who are your favorites?

 

11/2/12

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

 

The Bandbox Hat

Previously: SarahJane has a restless night. The next morning she and Cassie are chosen for a bowling date with Austin and his mom. In the car on the way to the bowling alley, Cassie confesses that she have met someone while on the show—someone on the crew.

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Cassie and I shuffled along behind the other girls and followed Austin into the dark bowling alley. Ooohs and Aaahs echoed around us. The place looked like we’d taken three giant steps back in time.

“Did they film That Thing You Do here?” I whispered to Cassie who responded with a low chuckle. “I swear Tom Everett Scott was drumming against that dark-paneled wall.”

Dim lights illuminated a dozen alleys. Gears meshed and ground as balls emerged from the automatic return tubes then rolled to a stop.

“Get your bowling shoes over here,” Liam called, waving his iPad from a nearby counter.

After shoving my feet into a pair of new sock and then into previously worn shoes, I looked around for a ball.

“Over here.” Linda waved to me from the next alley. “Try this one.” She thrust a ball into my arms and I staggered under the weight.

“I’ve been playing so much Wii bowling, I forgot how heavy these suckers are.” I tried to place it in the sorter gently but it slipped and thudded, making the whole contraption shudder.

Linda laughed. “It’ll be fun.”

Before I could agree, Cassie skipped up to us. “Are we assigned to certain alleys?”

“We’re using both sides of this one.” Linda waved a hand at the semi-circle of plastic chairs molded to someone’s backside. “As soon as we’re all here, we’ll get started. Cassie, we figured this was safer than beach volleyball. These balls are too heavy to spike into anyone’s face.”

Cassie laughed but a shadow crossed her face.

A prickle ran over the nape of my neck. Something was missing … I glanced around the dim building. Girls still chattered at the shoe counter. Liam and Austin spoke in low tones by the snack bar. They both had intense expressions on their faces but I couldn’t make out any words.

Wait … cameras. Where were the ever-present cameras? They’d been spying on Amanda and me in the middle of the night, but they weren’t here capturing a bona fide group date. That made no sense. Also, where was Nathan? If he was being added to the show, shouldn’t he be here? Something was going on.

I strolled by the snack bar, striving to hear Austin and Liam’s conversation. But when I got close, all I heard was, “… that’s final.”

They broke apart and looked at me. “Where’s the cameras?” I asked. May as well let them know I knew they were up to something.

Liam shrugged. “They’re around. We thought it would be more natural to keep them at a distance.”

Right. And my great-aunt Martha was born yesterday.

 

10/31/12

Woe! It’s Wednesday: It’s the Little Things

 

If only I could Photoshop out the dust …

little things

This is a picture of some little mementos that I keep in front of my monitor.

  • A little zebra that a friend brought back from a mission trip to Africa.
  • A tadpole to remind me that we’re all in process of becoming the person God wants us to be.
  • A rosebud that fell off a beautiful bookmark from a friend.
  • A stone heart that I purchased on a recent trip out of town with friends. To remind me to love at all times.
  • 2 pieces of beach glass to remind me of a special time away and that when I feel tossed around by life, it’s just smoothing off the rough jagged edges.

A few weeks ago for several mornings in a row, I found the zebra in the hallway outside the office. Then the heart disappeared. Someone was messing with my mementos. I blamed Stud Muffin for opening and closing the window above my desk too vigorously. I never said it out loud, but I figured that’s what happened.

Until I caught the culprit red-pawed:

Phuti

I don’t know if he liked the pretty colors or the heft of them against his batting paws.

I just know they kept him enthralled for hours.

I do the same thing. I allow myself to be distracted by pretty things. Time-wasting things. Unimportant things.

It’s been a week or so since the cat swiped anything off my desk. Maybe he’s outgrowing his need for aimless distractions.

I hope I am as well.

10/30/12

Book Talk Tuesday: Sons of Thunder

 

If Starbucks announced they were making sheep’s milk cheese in addition to coffee, I’d be cautious about trying it. If Toyota went into the burger business, I’d be skeptical. If McDonald’s announced a foray into fine dining, I’d have some doubts.

Susan May Warren’s contemporary stories have long been at the top of my favorites list. I knew she’d written a few historicals but couldn’t bring myself to try them. What if I didn’t like them? Would they ruin the contemporaries for me?

I just finished her Sons of Thunder with a sigh of relief.

Sons of Thunder

It’s very good.

I love how Susie weaves her plot lines together and creates a deep and compelling story with honest and flawed and real characters.

Sons of Thunder is about two brothers and the woman they both love. It’s pre-World War II. Markos Stavros and his younger brother Dino flee their Greek home on the island of Zante when tragedy erupts. Also on their boat is Markos’s friend and love, Sofia.

They make it to Chicago and get swept up in the gangster wars. The trio is separated and each builds a new life. War and circumstances bring them together again. But each has done terrible things to survive. Their journeys bring them back to God as well as to each other.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but will say Sons of Thunder is worth reading. It won’t ruin your appetite for contemporary Susan May Warren stories. In fact, it may encourage you to run out and buy a few. I went ahead and requested one I missed from the library and picked it up today!

10/26/12

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

SarahJane, Cassie, Amanda, Austin, Liam, Linda, and Nathan are too busy playing beach volleyball to give me an update this week. They promise they’ll behave next week. Thanks for checking in!

10/24/12

Woe! It’s Wednesday: The Circle of Life

 

We’ve had quite a 2012. A fairly mild winter. A short spring. An endless summer – and I don’t mean in a good way. It was still in the 100s here just a week or so ago.

 

Summer, fall 2011 309

 

 

A view from the car window, September 2011, near Hamilton, New York.

 

 

Sunday I told Stud Muffin that I smelled fall in the air for the first time.

He scoffed and went out to wash his truck. The sun was warm and he didn’t feel the chill bite in the breeze.

Monday morning I woke up to gray rain and a grouchy husband complaining about his clean truck being rained on.

That’s the thing about time and seasons. They pass whether we’re ready for them or not.

This last weekend we heard that a family friend passed away. A niece got married. Friends announced they will be grandparents for the first time. A job opportunity came along.

We may not feel ready for winter or death. Spring and new life may seem so far away.

But God is constant and unchanging and faithful. No matter the season, the temperature or who’s in the playoffs.

That’s a comfort to me.

10/23/12

Book Talk Tuesday: Love Inspired Suspense

I’ve just read several Love Inspired Suspense novels back to back. They range from really good to just okay. Unfortunately I read them in reverse order of quality, starting with the best.

In no particular order here are brief reviews:


Danger on the MountainMaggie Bennett and Reese Kirkpatrick are caught in a bank robbery. Reese is a new deputy in town and is able to save Maggie when the robbers plan to take her and her baby daughter hostage. The robbers seem more intent on harming Maggie though then getting away with the robbery loot. They stay in town and harass her. Reese is drawn to the strong widow with the baby and vows to keep them safe.

This was a good one! I believed the setup, although my credulity was stretched a bit by the end. Overall, it was good and I would pick up others in this series. The small mountain town sounds charming and I could see it and want to spend time there.


Buried Secrets (Heart of the Amazon, #2) (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense #72)Maggie Somers is shocked when Zach Collier (a Montague to her Capulet family) turns up in her burglarized grandfather’s home just after the funeral. Zach is convinced her grandfather was murdered, just like his was two weeks ago. When younger, the two men shared possession of maps and a journal that promised Aztec treasure. They fought over a woman and Zach’s grandfather won the woman and the map. Maggie’s got the journal. Now someone is after both elements and have already killed in their quest. It goes against Maggie’s grain to trust a Collier, but it’s the only way to find her grandfather’s murderer.

I enjoyed Buried Secrets. It had good action and I believed the attraction between Maggie and Zach. I did have a problem with the plot point that a Spanish priest, hundreds of years ago, would write an English word into his Spanish journal as a clue. That quibble aside, it was a good read. If you like Indiana Jones, Romancing the Stone, or Victoria Pitts-Caine’s Alvarado Gold, you’ll enjoy Buried Secrets.


Dead Air (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense #189)Gabby Rogillio is a night DJ in Mystique, Mississippi. Just   before the station owner’s planned announcement that he sold the station, he’s knocked unconscious and another employee is dead with the gun near the unconscious owner. Gabby is convinced Robert Ellison, the former owner, is innocent. The new owner, Clark McKay, agrees and they join forces to find out the truth. Both Gabby and Clark receive threats to back off their quest while they fight their growing attraction.

This one was my least favorite. Maybe because I’m not from the South, I didn’t find the quirks and idioms charming, just tiresome. Maggie’s thoughts about other characters that are meant to be witty and flip just came across as mean to me.

The inner conflict that kept Gabby and Clark apart wasn’t strong enough for me. I get loving a house but him buying it when he didn’t even know she existed, much less planned on buying it herself, just isn’t enough to convince me Gabby wouldn’t be able to shrug off her disappointment. Surely there are other charming antebellum houses in town. Gabby also had a bad experience with a man in the past and that convinces her that all businessmen are up to no good. That just doesn’t make emotional logic sense to me. She’s smart enough to see that one jerk doesn’t mean all men are jerks.

There is the basis of a great story here, but the potential wasn’t quite realized.


Hide In Plain SightAndrea Hampton hurries to the small town in the heart of Amish country where her grandmother and sister have been preparing to open the family home as a Bed & Breakfast inn. Andrea’s sister was in an accident and is hospitalized. Andrea can’t abandon the only family she has left so she takes a few weeks off from her job to help get the inn ready.

Cal Burke gave up a high powered job to become a furniture craftsman. He rents part of Andrea’s grandmother’s barn as a shop and apartment. He’s drawn to Andrea’s spunk and courage but sees that she’s determined to get back to the city and lifestyle he’ll never return to.

Accidents continue to plague the inn and Andrea and Cal join forces to figure out who’s trying to sink the inn before it can float.

I enjoyed this one. I got the inner conflict that kept Andrea and Cal apart. The suspense was well done with just enough red herrings between the real clues to keep me not 100% sure that I knew who the bad guy/girl was. (I was right – but I wasn’t sure – just the way I like it!)

This is the first in a series about Andrea’s family. I’d read the others. I recommend it!

10/19/12

Fiction Friday: What?!?! It’s FRIDAY?

I lost a week somewhere.

The Bandbox Hat will be back next Friday.

See you then and we’ll catch up with SarahJane and Austin and Cassie and Amanda and Nathan.

10/16/12

Book Talk Tuesday: You Don’t Know Me

I’ve mentioned Susan May Warren and her books here before. I just finished her latest and it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s definitely going on my “Best of 2012” list.

You Don't Know Me

Annalise Decker has lived in Deep Haven, Minnesota for twenty years. She’s built a perfect life. An adoring husband who’s running for mayor. Three accomplished children. A loving mother-in-law.

Too bad it’s all based on a lie.

Annalise is really Deidre O’Reilly and she’s in the Witness Security Program.

Her ordered life comes crashing down when the drug lord she testified against is released on parole and comes looking for her, intent on vengeance.

Nathan Decker has his own secrets he’s keeping from Annalise.

I loved these characters. Susie Warren knows each character from the inside out and has layered them with real and complex emotions. The plot moves briskly and kept me turning pages.

Characters and their emotional logic is big to me. When faced with huge moments, each character acted totally true to him/herself and their situation and feelings.

This one is a winner and I highly recommend it!

10/12/12

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

 

The Bandbox Hat

Previously: SarahJane saves Amanda who was comatose in the pool after choking. SarahJane meets Logan, a production assistant. He informs her that she’s been chosen for a bowling date for the next day. She feels strangely warm and tingly as she leaves him.

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Cassie was spread across her bed when I tiptoed in and collapsed on my own bed. I stared at the ceiling for only a minute before I blinked my eyes open to sunshine bleeding through the blinds and sounds of the shower running in our bathroom.

“Are you awake yet?” Cassie called.

“Yes.” I struggled upright.

“A date card arrived. They want us downstairs in ten minutes.”

I splashed water on my face and changed into cropped pants and a cute top. Bowling today.

First, I’d have to act surprised then pleased when my name was read. Then I’d have to act pleased to go bowling. When all I wanted was to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head.

But I made my way downstairs with a smile on my face. A buzz of conversation stilled as I entered the kitchen. “What?” I asked.

“Amanda’s back. She said you saved her life.” A redhead sipped a fruit smoothie as she spoke, her blue eyes rounded and watching me.

“That’s not what she said last night.” I poured a mug of coffee and stirred in a teaspoon of sugar.

“She’s back and she said she was real sorry for snapping at you. I guess the hospital told her she would have died in a few more minutes.”

Relief flooded my chest. As much as I disliked the game-playing and name calling between the girls, I was relieved that any Amanda drama seemed to be over. “I’m just glad I was there.”

“Okay, ladies! We need everyone in the living room.” Liam’s voice echoed from the other room.

We filed like obedient first graders into the next room. The first six sat on the couch. The next four took chairs. The rest of us lined up behind the couch, in front of the French doors to the outside.

After ten minutes of positioning cameras and mics, lights and spotlights, we were ready to begin. Cassie was selected to answer the doorbell and to read the date card.

The director listened to his earpiece then pointed at Cassie as the bell rang. Girls squealed and giggled then quieted when she reappeared with an envelope.

She unsealed it and withdrew an embossed ivory card. “Family is important to me and to Austin,” Cassie read. “We enjoy lots of hobbies and activities together. Today we’re going … bowling!” The murmurs of anticipation quieted and girls looked at each other. “Please join us at the alley.” Cassie paused and looked up, meeting my eyes. “Cassie—that’s me! SarahJane.” She grinned and I smiled back. She went back to the card and reeled off a half dozen more names. Amanda wasn’t one of them. “See you soon, ladies. Signed, Linda.” Cassie stuffed the card back into the envelope as conversation swelled again. She made her way to my side.

“You, me, no Amanda. What’s up with that? It could be boring.”

I laughed. “With you and me around, it’ll be anything but boring.”

“Ladies, let’s go!” Liam herded us with his clipboard in one hand and his other cupping his ear.

We allowed ourselves to be guided outside and we climbed into a pair of SUVs.

“I haven’t been bowling in years,” Cassie said. “How about you?”

“I do Wii bowling with my niece all the time.”

She groaned. “Great. I’ll look like a complete dork while you continue to charm both Linda and Austin.”

I elbowed her. “Yesterday was your day in the spotlight, Miss Beach Volleyball.”

She smiled. “Oh yeah. And I forgot one other thing—” She flushed and fell quiet.

“What?” I asked.

She just shook her head. “I can’t talk about it. Yet.”

I leaned closer. “Whisper it to me, the cameras won’t hear.”

“I can’t,” she said with a smile. Then without moving her lips I heard a whisper. “It’s against the rules, but I think … well, I might have met someone.”

“Here?” I breathed back. “But there’s no one to meet here except Austin. Or the crew … Are you falling for someone on the crew?”

Her smile never changed. “We’re just flirting a little. But I have a feeling …”

The SUV rocked to a stop.

“Don’t say a word to anyone!” Cassie said.

“Even if I could, I wouldn’t,” I said. “I don’t know anyone to blab it to.”

Our door opened with a whoosh. “Welcome to the Glen Eagle Bowling Alley,” Austin said.

10/10/12

Woe! It’s Wednesday: The Rewards of Being a Victim

A friend recently told me something that grabbed my attention:

“The rewards of being a perpetual victim is no responsibility, no accountability, and eternal empathy.”

This is the kind of thing that makes me nod when I hear it, but the deeper implications are only clear after meditating on it for some time.

I know a few people who positively exult in their victimhood. Every time I see them, they bring up the past, how they were hurt and done wrong.

Their fixation on their hurt enables them to stay focused on several things.

  • Their selves
  • Their feelings
  • Their grievances

If they let go of that victim mentality, they’d have to examine what personal responsibility they bear for the problem.

Then they’d have to be accountable. Maybe apologize. Maybe forgive. Maybe think about someone else’s needs and wants.

How much easier it is to stay wrapped up in their own hurt, continuing in the victim role, being rewarded with no consequences and empathy from their enablers. How sad.

I’m off to take some responsibility and do some apologizing.

10/9/12

Book Talk Tuesday: 50% Off Murder

  I have a shopping story that’s part chick lit, part romance, so I picked up this one, curious about a shopping mystery.

It’s the first book of a series called The Good Buy Girls.

50% Off Murder is set in the village of St. Stanley, Virginia and centers on four friends who meet to exchange coupons and suss out deals.

When a man is found murdered in the library basement, one of the quartet, Claire, is arrested. Claire’s a librarian, her cake knife is the murder weapon, and one of her books is found near the body. The circumstantial evidence is damning.

Maggie is determined to prove her friend’s innocence, but she’s stymied at every turn by the new sheriff in town: her high school love, Sam.

Josie Belle shows good instincts for cozy mysteries and she knows how to lay the red herrings while not burying the real evidence.

This is a short, fun, light read. I likely won’t seek out the next book in the series because I’m too far behind in my To Be Read stack, but if it was offered to me, I’d add it to the stack.

10/5/12

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

The Bandbox Hat

Previously: SarahJane goes outside by the pool to think about leaving the show. Amanda, her nemesis, comes out also. They exchange a few words then Amanda gets in the water while SarahJane lies on a lounge chair. When it gets too quiet, SarahJane calls Amanda’s name. Amanda doesn’t answer. She’s face down in the water. SarahJane jumps in and calls for help.

Chapter Thirty-Seven

I splashed my way to Amanda, still yelling. Where was everyone? Didn’t someone monitor the cameras?

“Help!” The water filled my sleep pants, dragging me down. I kicked them off and in another stride reached her. Her arms floated at her sides. I turned her over. Her eyes stared, glassy and large.

“Amanda!” I shook her but she didn’t blink.

“What’s going on?” A production assistant jogged to the pool edge.

“She’s not breathing!” All the CPR instructions tumbled through my head but I couldn’t sort them into any order. Pinch her nose? Or breathe into her mouth.

“The medics are coming. Pull her to me.” The man leaned over, reaching out.

Basic lifesaving skills I learned in high school returned to my foggy brain. Grasping under Amanda’s shoulders, I tugged her to the PA who hauled her onto the pool deck. Thundering footsteps sounded as I clambered out behind her.

Two medics appeared with bags of gear. They knelt next to Amanda, calling her name. They worked quickly, palpating and looking in her eyes and throat, pulling out tubing and fastening them to oxygen containers and to a plastic mask that covered her nose and mouth.

After an agonizingly long minute her eyelids fluttered and she raised a trembling hand to feel the mask.

I hovered over the medic. The PA stood, arms crossed over his chest. “What’s the verdict?” he asked.

“Looks like she choked on something,” one of the medics said. “We’ll take her to the hospital and have her checked out.”

“Great.” He didn’t sound like he thought it was great at all. More like irritated.

I glared at him. “What, will this interrupt your plans for tomorrow’s date? What is it? More beach volleyball? Or maybe tango lessons?”

He didn’t flinch as he met my gaze. “Bowling, and yes, it does change things. She’s out, you’re in.” He turned on his heel and strode away.

“Why, you—”

Amanda sat up and ripped off the mask. “No!” she called to his retreating back. “I’ll be okay. I can bowl!”

The medic closest to me pressed her back onto the ground with a hand to her shoulder. Her look at me could have cut diamonds. “This is all your fault.”

I pointed at my chest. “ME? You’re the one who almost drowned!”

“I would have come to in a minute.” Her voice sounded subdued under the mask, but I still got the venom.

“Whatever.” I turned and shuffled away. My sleeping pants were in the bottom of the pool and I realized I stood in my panties and a camisole, shivering in the cool night air.

“Here.” The production assistant had returned. He handed me a terrycloth robe.

“Thank you.” It felt warm and blessedly dry on my goose-pimpled arms. I had one more reflexive shiver before my muscles relaxed. “What’s your name?” I’d seen him around, but until then he’d just been part of the crew.

“Logan.”

“I’m SarahJane.” I stuck out my hand.

He smiled, and I found myself smiling back. He had warm brown eyes and when he grinned, they were framed by small crinkles. “Yes, I know. And I’m really sorry about your friend over there.”

“We’re not friends.” It was out before I could censor myself. “I mean, well, we’re not close, but I guess …”

He nodded. “I know. I’ve seen the footage. She hates you.”

I laughed. “I’m so glad you said that. I thought it was my imagination.”

“Nope, and sorry to say, you two have made for some of our best scenes.”

My mouth snapped shut for a moment. “So, I guess I’ll be seeing a lot of us on TV while someone says, ‘Next on Date My Son, Amanda and SarahJane battle it out for Austin’s heart. Does SarahJane break Amanda’s nose when they go after each other during an innocent game of beach volleyball? Stay tuned.’”

He chuckled. “Probably.”

I shivered again. “I should have known.”

“Let’s go inside. You really are going bowling tomorrow, so you should get to bed.” He moved to the French doors into the kitchen and held them open for me.

Once inside, he poured hot water from a kettle on the stove over a tea bag and handed me the cup. “Good thing I happened to be in production room and saw you yelling.”

“Isn’t someone watching all the time?” I asked. “I presumed everything is recorded.”

He nodded. “It is, but it’s not all watched at the same time. A couple of girls are having heart-to-hearts upstairs and that was more riveting than you two not speaking by the pool.”

I gestured with tea cup. “Well, thanks for this and the robe. Guess I better go look at what I have in the way of bowling clothes.”

“See you soon, SarahJane.”

I suddenly felt very warm and I had a feeling it had nothing to do with the terrycloth.

 

10/3/12

Woe! It’s Wednesday: How Rude!

I’ve blogged before about how contemporary society has coarsened and become careless about simple courtesy, such as RSVPing, returning messages, and cussing in public.

I’ve been noticing another example of how we’re all getting ruder and louder and more selfish.

I had the opportunity recently to see Diana Krall in concert. She’s been one of our favorite musicians for quite a while. A few years ago when we were in the midst of some severe trials, her music buoyed us and helped us keep on. We’d get more bad news, look at each other, and say, “Time to go buy another CD.” Ms. Krall doesn’t tour often and gets to the west coast even less often, so we were thrilled that she was coming to a small historic theater an hour from home. We bought our tickets months ahead, as soon as we knew about it. We waited and anticipated a fun evening.

When we arrived, the ticket takers said, “If you have to leave the theatre, please wait until the end of the song to return to your seat.” They made eye contact while saying this. The lobby was lined with signs that said the same thing. The restroom mirrors had the signs. There was no way you could enter that concert without knowing the expected behavior.

Sure enough, during the first song, a couple with drinks in hand, scooched along the front row to take their seats. Not thirty seconds later they stood and scooched back to a different pair of seats.

Ms. Krall and her trio played a few more minutes, then paused to welcome the audience. She barely opened her mouth and people started yelling, “We love you, Diana!” and “Tell about Rio!” She sighed. Said, “I love you, too.” Every time she tried to talk, people yelled comments. “Where’s Elvis?” was next.

When did buying a concert ticket give us the right to badger and interrupt the performer? When did knowing and loving someone’s work become an illusion that we have a relationship? And when did it become okay to treat a theatre or club or concert hall like our living room? People in the front row at the Krall concert placed their drinks at the edge of the stage. Ms. Krall did say to the late arriving scoochers, “This isn’t a bar,” and soon the drinks were removed.

She responded with grace and courtesy to the boors who called themselves fans. Too bad they don’t give her the same honor and courtesy to perform for those of us who were there to listen to her music, not find out if Elvis had left the building.

10/2/12

Book Talk Tuesday: I Ate The Sheriff

I’m not into the horror genre at all. I’ve never watched any of the zombie movies or television series.

I read the first of K. Bennett’s legal zombie thrillers, Pay Me In Flesh, for review and because K. Bennett is the nom de plume of one my favorite writers and (mentors) James Scott Bell.

 

Mallory Caine is an LA lawyer, full of snappy retorts and an intense hunger for human brains. She was shot and killed and reanimated as a zombie. She’s in a Twelve Step program and trying to convince herself that cow brain is just as yummy as UCLA grads.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. So I picked up the latest Mallory Caine book with less trepidation.

I missed the second book, The Year of Eating Dangerously, so my only concern with I Ate The Sheriff was if I’d be able to follow the story without knowing what exactly happened just before.

Mallory’s doing well with her Zombies Anonymous meetings. Her only relapses are serial killers, so it could be argued that she’s performing a public service when she eats them.

Evil is infecting Los Angeles and much of the malevolence seems targeted at Mallory. The sheriff threatens her and tells her to leave town. She’s busy with her father’s upcoming trial and a custody case for a werewolf client.

Then the sheriff pays her a late night visit and insists she leave. He shoots her which only enrages her. When she wakes up, she’s wanted for a double homicide.

Even though the premise of a zombie lawyer in an LA full of demons, ghosts, vampires, and werewolves is over the top, the stories themselves have heart and humor. Bennett’s writing is sure and deftly shows that there is a real battle in the world today between good and evil. And like Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Mallory Caine may be a zombie but she’s a good person and she proves it.

The ending is a satisfying resolution without being smarmy or cloying.

I highly recommend these books, especially to someone who loves the zombie entertainment but wants some hope as well.

9/28/12

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

 

The Bandbox Hat

Previously: After taking April home to Rosedale, SarahJane returns to the reality show Date My Son. She and one of the production assistants Liam share a moment. SarahJane wonders how she’ll be able to handle watching women on the show come on to her brother Nathan. She wonders if she can get Linda, the original bachelor’s mother, to get rid of her on the show.

Chapter Thirty-Six

I stared at the ceiling for more than an hour before creeping out of bed. Cassie’s comment about the only way out of here was for Linda to want me to go whirled through my head like peaches in a blender. Only instead of a yummy smoothie, all I had was more confusion.

Downstairs, a couple of girls huddled together on the sofa. They stopped whispering when my footsteps echoed in the tile hallway. I sketched a wave and moved on to the kitchen. After getting a glass of water, I just stood at the sink and stared out at the night.

The pool, surrounded by quintessential California palm trees, shimmered in the moonlight. Even though there were no camera operators following me around, I knew the house was equipped with other cameras hidden in corners or lights or something. Liam had made a point to tell me on the very first day that this was a 24/7 venture. So while I might think I was alone, I knew I wasn’t. As much as I yearned to curl up on a chaise outside and sob my woes out, I didn’t want to be end up on a promotional video with a deep voice asking, “Stay tuned to see SarahJane’s emotional meltdown after these messages,” before a Viagra commercial.

I had to smile at myself. Always seeing the worst possible outcome was the part of me that I most wanted to change.

I stood up straight.

So why not?

Why not change from a pessimist to an optimist?

Why not look on the bright side?

Why not be spontaneous, in spite of what might happen?

I pushed through the French doors and onto the pool deck, then stretched out on the wide chaise longue. The palms swayed and bent, bowing to the moon. I stretched my hands over my head, then curled onto my side, hands under my cheek.

How could I stay on this show and watch these girls as they schemed and maneuvered to get close to Nathan? It had been hard enough to watch when it was Austin and Linda being played. But my own brother?

On the other hand, I signed a contract. And this was supposed to be part of the adventure of living my own life away from my family and their long shadows. Perhaps most surprising—even as I admitted it to myself, I couldn’t believe it was true—I really did like Austin and his mom. They were genuine people. Or Oscar worthy actors, and that didn’t seem possible. Linda treated me with warmth and grace. Austin was a gentleman. In fact, according to some of the girls, too much of a gentleman to follow up on their invitations to kiss them.

The French doors opened with a soft click. I didn’t move. I didn’t want to deal with anyone right now.

Footsteps made their way to the pool edge. Then … a sob?

I sat up and strained to see who invaded my quiet with their crisis.

A tall woman stood near the pool, blonde hair cascading down her back.

“Amanda?” I asked.

She started and whirled toward me. “I didn’t see you there! What are you doing there, spying on me?”

I sighed and rolled back to my side. “I was here first. You’re spying on me.”

Silence. Which suited me fine.

After a moment, footsteps sounded again. She must be walking around the pool. Then a faint splash. Ah. She’d probably invited Austin to meet her here for a midnight swim and I messed up her plans for an intimate encounter.

Well, I was here first and I wasn’t moving.

We coexisted in our own cocoons of thought for a while. Me, curled up on the chaise, watching the moon move through the sky. Amanda floating in the water with an occasional splash as she turned or kicked.

The sounds of water and wind in the trees combined with the quiet eventually unknotted my muscles and I stretched out. My eyes grew heavy. In spite of the breeze, the night was warm and I had no urge to go back to our stuffy room on the second floor.

After what seemed like a half an hour I noticed the stillness. “Amanda?” I whispered. I hadn’t heard a splash for several minutes.

She didn’t respond.

I sat up and peered at the pool. She still floated, hair spreading behind her like a peacock fan. “Amanda?” I said it more loudly.

Still no response.

I stood and made my way to the pool edge. She came into focus and I could see what I’d missed in the darkness. She was face down in the water.

“Amanda!” I jumped in and paddled to her. “Are you okay?”

Her only movement was bobbing on top of the waves I generated as I flailed my way to her.

“Help! I need help!”

9/26/12

Woe! It’s Wednesday

Coffee Cup Wisdom

wine mug

I bought myself this mug a little over a year ago.

Its meaning is twofold.

Yes, I enjoy wine and a bottle is always a welcome gift.

But the bigger sentiment is about who we connect with. Some of the most meaningful gifts are the simplest. It’s the bag of Cabernet taffy from the friend who knows you enjoy wine. It’s a gently used purse from someone who knows your taste. It’s a decorative tree with leaves made from the cover of your newest book. It’s memories preserved as jewelry or framed photographs.

tree

The dearest gifts declare that you were thought about and you are loved.

Gifts have been a challenge in our marriage. Whether because of being raised with different parenting styles or gift-giving philosophies, we’ve had a few tense conversations. I finally told my dear husband not to give me a gift if he wasn’t going to put at least a little thought into it and I’d rather have a card and a kiss than something I was going to have to return because he didn’t pay attention. That talk came after he gave me some handheld dumb-bell weights when I’d specifically said I wanted wrist weights. I opened the dumb-bells and graciously said thank you even though I was sighing and thinking about when I could exchange them. He then said, with perfect sincerity, “I was going to get you wrist weights because I thought it made more sense for walking, but you said you wanted dumb-bells.”

That was the last thoughtless gift I received and we’re all the happier for it.

We just celebrated our 35th anniversary and he got me the perfect gift. He listened and thought about it.

I have a story idea set in Portland, even though I’ve never been to Portland. I’ve tried to move the story to somewhere I’m familiar with but it won’t leave. I’ve mentioned several times that I want to go to Portland. I periodically look at airfares. I’m saving miles on a credit card. But wasn’t getting any closer. For our anniversary, he gave me a gift certificate that said a week in February, which was a bit cryptic. And a gift bag of Portland guidebooks.

As much as I love the thought of going to Portland, the real gift is he listened to me.

9/25/12

Book Talk Tuesday: Smart Women Know When to Say No

 

Smart Women Know When to Say No by Dr. Kevin Leman was a free or low cost Kindle book a few months ago. I’ve read several other of Dr. Leman’s books and I appreciate his commonsense and faith-based approach to life issues. So I downloaded it and recently finished it.

Product Details

When I started the book, I was feeling frazzled and overworked and stressed and I wanted help to learn how to pare down my life and my schedule. I constantly feel like I pour too much attention and time into things that aren’t going to have any lasting value. I know dishes and laundry have to be done but do I neglect those in order to have coffee with a friend for mutual edification. And how many friends do I spend regular time with for fellowship and encouragement? Is there a magic number for how many is enough but not too many?

This book is for women who have super controlling husbands or other highly dysfunctional relationships and need help learning how to assert themselves.

That doesn’t quite describe what I needed. I think it would be great for its intended audience.

I, on the other hand, still need help discerning the good choices from the best.

 

9/21/12

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

 

The Bandbox Hat

Previously: SarahJane takes April home. Jake meets her in the driveway. He tells her Rachael, her long lost sister, has been calling and communicating with him. SarahJane leaves to return to Los Angeles and the reality show, Date My Son, with her brother Nathan now on as a new bachelor in competition for the women on the show.

Chapter Thirty-Five

I barely nodded off when we exited the freeway and drove through streetlight dappled roads that twisted up. When Justin pulled into the mansion driveway I pulled my hair away from my face and patted my cheeks.

“Is everyone back from the beach?” I asked. There were fewer than usual vans lining the drive and hardly any camera equipment littering the walkway.

“Not yet.”

Maybe I could shower and crawl into bed without seeing anyone or having it documented. I slammed the front door and took the stairs two at a time.

“SarahJane!”

So close. My shoulders drooped at the sound of Liam’s voice. I turned and dragged back to the ground floor and into the kitchen. “Hey, Liam.”

He leaned against the refrigerator. “How was the trip?”

“April is home. I’m here. I guess it went according to plan.”

His eyes narrowed as his gaze searched me. “What’s wrong?”

I opened the fridge door, blocking his view of me. “Is there any ginger ale? I don’t feel so good.”

His fingers appeared on the side of the door followed by his forehead then his eyes. Funny, I never noticed how clear blue they were. Like one of Mom’s prized Wedgewood serving bowls. “I’ll call catering for you,” he said, then murmured something into his walkie.

I let the door waft close and sighed. “When does every get back?”

“About twenty minutes.”

“Is Nathan staying with Austin?”

Liam shook his head. “I was against this, just so you know.”

A tiny seedling of respect rooted in my heart. “Thanks, Liam.”

He nodded once. “Nathan’s going to stay in the pool house here. We’re adding talks between Austin and Nathan, with and without Linda, to discuss which women they’re going to invite on which dates. We’ll be doing several of those tomorrow and making new date plans, so tomorrow will be a slow day for you all.”

The prospect of a whole day with no one yelling for me to hurry up or stand here or walk there again made my eyes fill. I wiped my eyes before the tears could fall and betray my precarious emotional condition.

Liam seemed to understand. He gripped my elbow and leaned close.

An assistant stumbled around the corner, recovered, and set a fizzing glass on the island. “Ginger ale?”

“Thanks, Mindy.” Liam’s lips tightened and he exhaled heavily before speaking. “Drink up and I’ll see you tomorrow, SarahJane.” He turned and followed Mindy out of the room. The front door made a loud thunk as it closed behind them.

The glass sputtered in my hand as I carried it up to my room. I’d just sat on my bed and sipped when I heard doors slamming, high voices of excitement, and footsteps hurrying up the stairs and along the halls.

The bedroom door opened a cracked. Cassie’s head appeared first.

“Oh, good, you’re back.” She stepped in.

“Just.” I lifted my glass of ginger ale in a toast. “How was the rest of the beach day?”

She flopped back on her bed, her hair fanning behind her in a perfect soft-as-flannel pillow. “Very fun. You missed the excitement of watching so many girls change their sights from Austin to Nathan. And the ones who couldn’t decide are still playing to both of them. This is going to be fun.” She rolled to one side, rested her elbow on the bed, and placed her head on her hand.

I groaned. “I’ve seen enough girls throwing themselves at my brothers for more than one lifetime. Is there any way I can get out of this?”

“Only if Linda kicks you off and I don’t see that happening. She likes you.”

Regret coursed through my veins even as an idea rooted. “I like her, too.”

The question, of course: did I like her enough to stay around and watch these women rub up against Nathan? And if I didn’t, could I get her to dislike me enough to vote me out and release me?

 

9/19/12

Tyranny of the Urgent

I often complain about how busy I am, but who’s to blame for that?

Yep.

Me.

I’ve had a very busy few weeks and I’m still trying to catch up. It takes me all week to get the weekend’s laundry, dishes, and detritus washed, dried, put away, or stored. I’m done just in time to start all over again.

In the meantime, I have a new story idea that’s been percolating and I’m ready to start it, but every week seems to be crammed so full of appointments that with travel time, I’m in town more than I’m home.

I’ve been tempted to tell everyone that I’ll be out of town for a couple of weeks and to stay home with the blinds downs and the lights off.

It would be much simpler to just group my appointments onto the same day. At least that would give me a day or two at home.

And there’s no time like the present.

Gotta go write.