Sunday, February 18, 2018

Does Your World keep Spinning Round?

The library's tidy. The books can be found. And the world keeps spinning around. I'm enjoying the delight of a son's bedroom now repurposed as a home for all my books, and the benefits of last year's flood that engendered this repurposing. I'm still regretting the books I lost, and staring anxiously at bottom shelves, four inches above ground level, just hoping that will be enough if the worst comes to worst. But we have water detectors now. As long as we're home when the worst comes to worst, I shall hear a loud noise and come down to rescue my world...

...which keeps spinning around.

The books on my review list for today are a very curious mix--the only thing they might have in common is that curiously spinning world... and the fact that they create their own worlds made of words...

The Nut File by John Skoyles presents an almost real world in almost a series (or sequence) of essays, very short stories (sometimes only one sentence) and ponderings, and almost many things. It's intriguing to find such short pieces so unputdownable. Enjoy with some lively easy-drinking two-star coffee.

The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard are firmly set in the real world of the past, starting in 1930s England. I've only read the first book so far, The Light Years, but I'm definitely hooked. Like a cross between Upstairs Downstairs and Enid Blyton's Secret Seven, it depicts the rich and poor, rules and ruled, children, lonely mothers and homely nursemaids, all convincingly real with every view-point drawing the reader further in. Enjoy with some richly elegant four-star coffee, and watch out for more.

Murder on New Year’s Eve by P. Creeden is first in a series of short novellas, designed to be read in an hour or two each. There's a dog, so I'm hooked, plus nicely low-key romance, and a mystery solved by a woman's attention to detail. It's a fun quick easy-reading tale to enjoy with some easy-drinking two-star coffee.

And still in the realm of romantic suspense and mystery, but in a much, much longer tale, there's See Me by Nichlas Sparks. Weighty with backstory at the start, it's a novel that comes into its own in the second half, where half-hinted trials and tribulations begin to take the stage. Enjoy with some dark five-star coffee as the world spins around these characters and the reader tries to guess where it will end. I guessed.

Finally, in a world even darker than ours, filled with politics, lusts and wars, there's A Heretical Divide (Of Hate And Laughter Book 2) by Serban Valentin Constantin Enache. It's the second part of a sprawling epic, but easy enough to pick up after forgetting part one, so probably easy enough to stand alone. A large cast of characters, mostly human, fights for power in the name of various gods. Enjoy this dark epic with some darkly brewed five-star coffee. A spinning world indeed.

Let's keep spinning stories!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Corridors of Time in the City of Paradox

Today I'm delighted to introduce author Vinay Krishnan, who is touring the internet with his upcoming book, Corridors of Time, a novel set in Bangalore--city of paradox.

Corridors of Time by Vinay Krishnan

Corridors of Time tracks the story of a sensitive young man who grows from carefree childhood to eventful manhood - one who stumbles before learning to stride through those dark and dense passages.
Set in Bangalore - a city of paradoxes. of gardens and garbage heaps. of technology and traffic snarls. of friendly people and failing infrastructure. when bungalows had gardens and pavements were meant for pedestrians. this is a narrative of the human spirit.
Rohan, an idealistic young sports lover experiences rejection, dark dejection and isolation and hurtles down the path to self destruction.
Shyla, attractive and successful is everything his heart yearns for and his body desires, except, she is married!
Chandrika, simple and devoted fails to understand the man she loves.
The shuklas long for justice denied by the system.
And khalid fears nothing and no one ...anymore.

About the Author:

Vinay Krishnan describes himself as a ‘complete Bangalorean’. A student of Clarence High School, he graduated in Humanities from St Joseph’s College. Earning a diploma in Business Administration, he began his career at Usha International Ltd and rose to a position of Senior Sales manager. Vinay has now set up a construction firm of his own. He also writes and devotes his time to an NGO assisting people with disability. The city of his dreams, Bangalore, where he stays with his wife and daughter, continues to inspire and exasperate him. He can be reached at –

Praises for Corridors of Time:

The book is simple in style and content, for often it is this simplicity that bewilders and rouses
~ Shri S . Rajendra Babu, Former Chief Justice of India

The book has excellent literary craftsmanship, passion humour and adventure. Highly recommended.
~ Mr. Namboodiri, former Asst. Editor, Deccan Herald

This charming book about old Bangalore is written in a racy easy-to-read style.
~ Deccan Herald, Bangalore.

This Cover Reveal is brought to you by Author's Channel in association with b00k r3vi3ws

Friday, February 16, 2018

Can a picture have a purpose?

Some picture books are for adults, some are for children, and some are for both to share. Some picture books are serious, some are just fun, and some tell a story with a message, making them both. Some picture books are black and white; others are vividly bright. Some take their pictures from photographs; others try to seem real; and still others make no pretense, adding cartoon imagination to every scene. I kind of suspect picture books should be faster to read, but it's not always true, since thinking takes time (as does laughing or crying). But pictures and picture books can certainly have purpose. I think mine do (, and I think some of these do too.

Where did my friend go by Azmaira H Maker PhD is a bright colored picture book with photographs nicely edited to evoke the story's mood. The text is deceptively simple with just a few sentences per page. And it's a powerful conversation starter for any child afraid of death and dying, just afraid, or particularly afraid after seeing a traumatic death. Read this one with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee. It's not too dark, but it's very real.

Another book by the same author is Family Changes. This time the images are more old-fashioned, more appropriate to a story of anthropomorphic rabbits. It's a sweet tale of a young rabbit who's heard that her parents are now separated, possibly divorced, and wants to know what the words will mean for her. Meanwhile there's a magical party going on at school with fun for all--life goes on. The story takes the child through an up-and-down day, balancing sorrow with joy very naturally and presenting the possibility of fun after divorce. Serious questions are tackled well, and it's an enjoyable read. Pour a cup of well-balanced three-star coffee while you open the pages.

Other picture books are less serious of course, and these next two were Christmas gifts to my mum (who loves cats). Breaking Cat News by Georgia Dunn hides some intriguing news behind its convincingly feline point of view, and is really rather fun as well as rather odd. Enjoy with some lively easy-drinking two-star coffee and read all about it, feline-style.

Texts from Mittens by Angie Bailey shows why cats should never be let loose on Facebook and Pinterest. The Furizon phone used by Mitty displays text message threads between cat and human, including various bathroom comments on dog. Some pages are laugh out loud funny. Some are just odd. All are feline. Enjoy an easy read with some more two-star coffee and have fun.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

What makes you you?

I wandered the aisle of the bookstore and saw books on the brain, the unconscious mind, etc; and I realized it was time to read some more non-fiction. I got the story of the Gene for Christmas. I acquired Science Held Hostage from a church book sale. And I bought Dan Eagleman's The Brain from that very aisle... which raises the question; why did I choose those books, and why did I choose to read them now?

Eagleman devotes a whole chapter in the Brain to how we make choices; how the emotions have to feed into them, helping us imagine a future after each option; helping us weigh those imagined futures with feeling so we can decide. I enjoy a close relationship with someone very indecisive, so that chapter deeply intrigued me. I also have autistic relatives, so the question of why we need other people intrigued me too. And the thought that, just for a while, John Robinson knew the pains of empathy. Plus, I know I remember things differently from other members of my family - not just disagreeing over orders or facts of events, but answering questions with a different approach to retrieving those events. I'm intrigued, and Eagleman feeds me with much to ponder on. So drink some richly elegant, complex four-star coffee and wonder what makes you you.

While Eagleman describes the importance of our subconscious selves and of community in defining our consciousness, I remain convinced that there's a selfhood beyond that which physical sciences can explain. I see my autistic relative and I'm sure there's a "him" behind his disability--a self he would have been, disguised by the self he is, and more than the sum of his selves. Robinson gained empathy and feared he'd lose his uniqueness; instead it seems he lost other things in the morass of relationship's pains, which makes me more than eager to read his books (but I haven't got them yet).

Still, I was already reading Science Held Hostage by Van Till, Young and Menninga, which delves into that line between faith and science, the boundary of the physical and the faith that there's something more. It's an older book that still seems to have great relevance. The authors invite their readers to see the distinction between origin and formation--where science describes the formation of say, stars, plants, animals (even brains and consciousness) but cannot discover why they work the way they do. Scientific laws describe how things work, but don't dictate their behavior. And rigorous science is precisely that--rigorous--while folk science picks and chooses unverifiable facts and decides to call them true--folk science on both sides of faith, since some scientists will cherry-pick their facts too, to prove their that there is no God. The science may well be out of date in this book, but the scientific method and room for debate is clearly the same today, and I really enjoyed the read. Find some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee and give it a go.

I recently read The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee too, and was lost to the world as I devoured long pages. The history aspect is fascinating, recording stories of famous people involved in genetic discovery. The science is cool and absorbing, including information about epigenetics that informs the reader delightfully, arming me well against those who say "Genes aren't the answer anymore and science got it wrong." Science progresses beautifully forward, and this book is a wonderful read. Enjoy with more richly elegant four-star coffee.

So what makes me me, and what makes you you--genes, consciousness, physical reality... or more. I just want to learn more!

Friday, February 2, 2018

What makes a character real?

I share a love for Jan Karon's novels with my mother. We can talk about the characters as if they were real, asking each other why this and how that, and generally driving the male members of our family crazy. But what makes these characters seem so real to us? Perhaps it's the fact that we've read about them so often, seen them grow up or grow old through so many books, enjoyed their conversations with each other and remembered pithy quotes... But how does that apply to other books where the characters feel like friends (or neighbors, or enemies)? While Mum reads other well-remembered volumes, I've been reading books I've never read before, and finding myself enthralled by characters who feel just as real as the inhabitants of Mitford, if not more so. I hope the characters in my own novels have the same sense of reality. But perhaps I'll never know if I can't work out how authors create it in their own books.

I'm thinking the protagonist in a memoir should seem real shouldn't s/he? Not a friend perhaps, but at the very least someone who cornered you over coffee perhaps in the store. And one of my recent reads was a memoir. Another was first-person fiction and another firmly anchored in a character's head. Both are told with sometimes disturbing clarity and honest confusion--stories I could relate to in places, less so in other places. Perhaps it's a point of contact with the protagonist that makes her real, but isn't she equally real to people with no such connection?

The third-person protagonist who makes mistakes you wish you could rescue him from... then the world moves on and his mistakes become a present imperfect reality and you want... and you feel like you know him though of course, you never would...? How does he become real?

The historical; the futuristic... more?

Some characters feel like they belong on TV and I'm comfortable to watch/read, enjoy the tale and forget it afterward. But others stay in the mind and memory. Long introspection might turn their fiction into a text book, but some internal thoughts just draw the reader in. Dialog can feel like you wish you weren't there, or else it makes you long to talk some more. Locale's can enthrall with fascinating scenery and events. But there must be something more.

I guess they call it depth; depth of character; depth of characterization; depth of reader involvement perhaps. Some characters have it; some novels draw you in; and some just entertain.

My latest Jan Karon expedition with Mum was the novel, To Be Where You Are. It's set in the familiar streets of Mitford, and the reader is happy to be there, even if some of the characters start wondering if they couldn't make more of life by being somewhere else. The author weaves several stories together in the novel. Situations and resolutions reveal and heal wounds. And the reading is fun. Enjoy with some well-balanced smooth three-star coffee.

First Person Female by Maria Flook is a complex literary memoir. Oddly, for me at least, the author doesn't feel any more real than the characters in Mitford. But perhaps the point is I'd never in real life meet anyone like Ms Flook; we'd never frequent the same places; and we'd probably instantly dislike each other without stopping to talk. Part of the strength of this memoir though, is how it pulls the reader in through short essays. If you're pushed away by one part of the tale you'll surely be drawn in by another. And a character whose adult life is grafted onto a wounded childhood might find, in wounded motherhood, the healing of the graft. Read this dark tale with some dark five-star coffee.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel is dark as well. It seems to be in all the stores, so I was delighted to get a free copy. The story's told in first person by a very convincing protagonist. Nicely avoiding excessive introspection, the author weaves past and present with well-timed breaks, each section feeding naturally into the next. It's a story of darkly broken family relationships, but it's deeper than most, allowing air for wounded truths to breathe. Read this one with some elegant complex four-star coffee.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer tells a story of a wounded boy who loses his father on 9/11. Humor, pathos, mystery, history, angst and delight all combine in a tale with a protagonist who doesn't quite seem real, but is so genuine you have to follow through every curious path--does having to follow him mean he is real after all? Certainly he and the people he interacts with become hauntingly convincing as the tale progresses. It's a great read, best enjoyed with some seriously elegant four-star coffee.

Moving from New York and Europe to Brooklyn and Ireland, Brooklyn by Colm Tiobin is just as good in book form as in the movie, and just as vividly real to me, an immigrant. The story of a girl who travels to the States to start a new life with a new job...who returns to her home and finds it's unchanged, yet not home... who struggles to decide where she fits in in either land. The narration's kind of detached, firmly fixed inside Eilis' head, yet immensely global and enthralling. Drink some well-balanced, full-flavored three star coffee while you read.

And finally, heading further afield (to Africa, seen through the eyes of an African American) The Uttermost Parts of the Earth by Frederic Hunter is a novel with a desperately real protagonist in situations that slide from merely unreal to desperately unreal. He works for the embassy and he just might be looking for his soul in Africa. But the girl he wants to marry has a thoroughly American soul. And the guide who helps him out when his boss goes missing... it's not clear where his soul lies. There are some pretty detailed scenes of sensuality, graphic horrors of war, and laugh-out-loud disasters of exile diplomats. Not an easy read, The Uttermost Parts of the Earth is nevertheless enthralling, captivating, unexpected and highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What can waitressing teach a writer?

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Abby Bardi to my blog. She's touring the internet with her novel Double Take. But Abby wasn't always an author... Read on to find out more, and read to the end of the post to read an excerpt from her book. Over to you Abby, and thank you for visiting my blog!

Six Things Waitressing Taught Me about Writing

In my latest novel Double Take, recent college graduate Rachel Cochrane is a waitress at a restaurant where she runs into an old friend who forces her to confront their shared mysterious past. You may be wondering, why would someone work as a waitress after earning a college degree? Two reasons: (1) Rachel has no common sense, and (2) Rachel is a lot like I was at her age, and that’s what I did.

It seems obvious that waiting tables is not the career goal for most college grads, even those in the liberal arts, but like Rachel, I loved being a waitress. I loved working in a clean (mostly), well-lighted place, serving food to interesting people I probably wouldn’t have met in another line of work. And when I look back on it, I can see that waitressing taught me a lot about writing.

Here are some things I learned:

1: Never cross a room without carrying something. A waitress has to make multiple trips between the tables and the kitchen, and you learn to always take something with you—menus, dirty dishes, clean napkins, whatever. This practice taught me the value of making every action count, not wasting time or energy, something that’s helpful to a writer: if you only have ten minutes to spare, do a little writing, even if it’s just a copy edit.

2: It’s important to multi-task. As a waitress, you have to know who ordered what, who needs more coffee, when people want the check. Similarly, writers often work on multiple projects at once, and it’s crucial to be able to keep track of all the threads.

3: Be aware of nonverbal cues. Being a waitress teaches you to read people. How do you know when they want their check? Their eyes follow you and they make twitching motions with their hands. Having an awareness of body language and facial expressions is helpful to a writer, and can also keep you from getting mugged on the subway (this happened to me once).

4. Respect the process. Food service, like writing, occurs in stages. It’s important to observe all the rituals: handing people menus, giving them some time to think, and returning at just the right moment to see what they want. You need to present their meal in a timely fashion, check on them, and clear their plates when they finish. You can’t rush this! Obviously, writing is like this, too.

5. Always wear sensible shoes.

6. Listen to people. In Double Take, Rachel’s restaurant experiences thrust her into a world very different from her sheltered college life. Some of the people she meets are doing cameos from my own waitress days: the guy with the mournful eyes who always ordered Jell-o; the fat man with his name on his pocket who spun a shiny quarter every day and said, “Double or nothing”; the waitress named Tee who had at least two other jobs; the waitress from Tunisia who spoke no English; the guy everyone loved who was beaten to death in a road-rage incident; the plumber whose son practiced telekinesis. More than anything else, waitressing teaches you that everyone is interesting and everyone has a story. 

And that's a wise lesson to learn, for authors and for everyone else. I'm looking forward to reading your book sometime and learning more about Rachel.


Title: Double Take
Author: Abby Bardi
Publisher: Harper Collins Impulse
Pages: 186
Genre: Mystery/Women’s Fiction

Set in Chicago, 1975, Double Take is the story of artsy Rachel Cochrane, who returns from college with no job and confronts the recent death of Bando, one of her best friends. When she runs into Joey, a mutual friend, their conversations take them back into their shared past and to the revelation that Bando may have been murdered. To find out who murdered him, Rachel is forced to revisit her stormy 1960s adolescence, a journey that brings her into contact with her old friends, her old self, and danger.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Abby Bardi is the author of the novels The Book of FredThe Secret Letters, and Double Take. Her short fiction has appeared in Quarterly WestRosebudMonkeybicycle, and in the anthologies High Infidelity, Grace and Gravity, and Reader, I Murdered Him, and her short story “Abu the Water Carrier” was the winner of The Bellingham Review’s 2016 Tobias Wolff award for fiction. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Maryland and teaches writing and literature in the Washington, DC, area. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, the oldest railroad depot in America.



Book Excerpt:

I recognized his voice from across the room. When I handed him a menu, he looked up absent-mindedly and went on talking to some guys, then did a double take.
“Cookie?” he said.
I tried on the name like an old article of clothing to see if it still fit. It felt like a suede fringed jacket. “Yep,” I said.
“Wow. You look so different.”
“I cut my hair.”
“Everyone did.”
“I’m older,” I said.
“Everyone’s older.”
“You look exactly the same,” I said. He was wearing a beat-up leather jacket over a green T-shirt, maybe the same jacket and T-shirt he had always worn. His thick black hair was shorter now and curly, skin still tan from summer, small mouth with perfect teeth. He still looked tough and handsome, but in a creepy way, like someone you couldn’t trust.
“Cookie, what the hell are you doing here?”
“I work here. I’d rather you didn’t call me that. My name is Rachel.”
“I thought your name was Cookie.”
“Nope. Do people still call you Rat?”
He laughed. “Nowadays I go by Joey.”
“Okay, Joey,” I said, since this was nowadays.
“Miss?” a voice called from a nearby table. The voice brought me back to where I was standing, in Diana’s Grotto, a Greek diner on 57th Street, with ten tables full of customers. For a moment, I had thought I was in Casa Sanchez.
It took me a while to make it back to Joey’s table. A divinity student had found a fly in his milkshake, and it wouldn’t have taken so long if I hadn’t made the mistake of saying, “So, how much can a fly drink?” Like most academics, this guy had no sense of humor and gave me a lecture on hygiene. It was amazing that knowing as much about hygiene as he seemed to, he would continue to eat at Diana’s Grotto. By the time I got back to Joey’s table, the men he had been sitting with were gone. Off-duty police, from the looks of them, I thought, or plain-clothes. We got a lot of cops in Diana’s; they slumped on stools at the counter with their guns hanging from their belts, sucking down free coffee. Back in the sixties, the sight of their blue leather jackets had always made me nervous, like I’d committed some crime I’d forgotten about.
“So why are you working here?” Joey asked. “I thought you were a college girl. A co-ed.” He flashed his white teeth. “I don’t mean to be nosy.”
“The problem with college is they make you leave when you finish.”
“And here I thought it was a permanent gig.”
“But why aren’t you doing something a little more—”
“Collegiate? Don’t ask.” I slid into the booth next to him. From across the room, Nicky, the maître d’, shot me a poisonous glance. I ignored him. “I like it here.” I smiled a crazy little smile.
“Hey, different strokes.” His eyes swept the room, resting on a mural of a white windmill on an island in the Aegean. The windmill’s blades were crooked. I remembered this eye-sweep from Casa Sanchez, where he had always sat facing the door so he could constantly scan the whole restaurant. His eyes returned to me. “Didn’t I hear a rumor you were supposed to be getting married? Some guy in California?”
“Just a rumor. Glad to hear the grapevine still works.”
I felt someone hiss into my ear. Nicky had slunk up behind me. He looked like a garden gnome in a plaid jacket and baggy pants, reeking of aftershave that had tried and failed. “Rose!” he snapped. He never called anyone by their right name. “What’s in a name?” I always murmured.
“Be right with you.” I gave him what I hoped was a reassuring smile.
“This is a classy place,” Joey said as Nicky ambled away.
“He’s the owner’s brother-in-law.”
“There is no Diana. She’s a mythological figure.”
“Like Hendrix?”
“Kind of.”
“Hey, you want to have a drink after work?”
“Actually, I don’t drink any more.”
“You want to come watch me drink? What time do you get off?”
“Nine thirty. You could come help me fill the ketchups.”
“You know, take the empty Heinz bottles and pour cheap generic ketchup in them.”
“Sounds like fun, but why don’t you meet me at Bert’s? Back room?”
I thought for a moment. This did not seem like a good idea, but I didn’t care. “Okay, why not. So, can I get you anything?”
“Just coffee.”
“You want a side of taramasalata with it? It’s made from fish roe.”
“I’ll pass, thanks.”
When I brought him his coffee, he said, “You’re still a hell of a waitress, Cookie.”
“You’re still a hell of a waitress, Rachel.”
“Thanks,” I said.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Is it Time to Pursue your Passion?

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Pamela Samuels Young to my blog. She's touring the internet with her addictive courtroom drama, Abuse of Discretion, and she's here to talk about writing, writing with passion, and how to find and use your passion... for good! Thank you so much for stopping by, and over to you Pamela

It’s Time to Pursue Your Passion

By Pamela Samuels Young

During the years that I moonlighted as a mystery writer while practicing law, people often marveled at my drive. Many of them also had a passion, but had ready excuses for not pursuing it:

I just don’t have the time.

I’m not as disciplined as you are.

I’ll do it after my kids graduate.

Whatever your excuses are, put them aside and just get started. To my surprise, trying to write a novel turned out to be far more challenging than practicing law. But I stuck with it and published my first novel a month before my 48th birthday.  It meant years of getting up at 4 a.m. to write before work, writing after work, on weekends, in airports, in hotels. Wherever and whenever I could find the time. Today, I’m a full-time writer with ten books to my credit. In 2017, I released two books, Abuse of Discretion, about a troubling teen sexting case, and Unlawful Desires, my first erotic romance written under the pen name Sassy Sinclair. It was a long journey, but well worth the trip.

Do you have a passion? Here are some tips to help you get started.

1. Find Time Where You Least Expect It.
Instead of listening to music during your morning commute, listen to an audiobook related to your passion. Cut back on TV and socializing and use that time to pursue your passion. Run off to the library or a nearby Starbucks for some passion-planning time. Even if it’s only an hour a week, use it!

2. Master Your Craft.
I meet so many people who are passionate about their business idea, but haven’t put in the hard work to make sure they have a great product or service. Put your ego aside and find people you trust who can give you constructive feedback. YouTube and the Internet have great free resources and you can also take inexpensive online courses on websites like

3. Join Professional Organizations.
There are hundreds of professional organizations whose sole function is to help their members develop their talents and realize their goals. I belong to Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the Author’s Guild, and Romance Writers of America. Even if you can’t make the meetings, most organizations have excellent newsletters and online resources to help you further your goals.

4. Ignore the Naysayers.
Many caring people urged me not to give up my day job. It’s too hard to make money as a novelist, they warned me. Thank God, I ignored them. I also ignored the nine publishing houses that rejected my work. How sweet it felt years later when a couple of those same publishers came after me. Be patient. If you have a passion, stick with it. Things may not happen overnight, but they will happen. I’m a testimony!

And what a testimony. Thank you so much Pamela. I rather think I needed to read this!

Pamela Samuels Young has always abided by the philosophy that you create the change you want to see. She set giant-sized goals and used her talent, tenacity and positive outlook to accomplish them. Pamela consequently achieved success in both the corporate arena and literary world simultaneously.
An author, attorney and motivational speaker, Pamela spent fifteen years as Managing Counsel for Toyota, specializing in labor and employment law. While still practicing law, Pamela began moonlighting as a mystery writer because of the absence of women and people of color depicted in the legal thrillers she read. She is now an award-winning author of multiple legal thrillers, including Anybody’s Daughter, which won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction, and her new release, Abuse of Discretion, a shocking look at the juvenile justice system in the context of a troubling teen sexting case.
Prior to her legal career, spent several years as a television news writer and associate producer. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from USC and earned a master’s degree in broadcasting from Northwestern University and a law degree from UC Berkeley School of Law. She is a frequent speaker on the topics of teen sexting, child sex trafficking, self-empowerment and fiction writing.



Abuse of Discretion, by Pamela Samuels Young, Mystery, Goldman House Publishing,352 pp., $3.99 (Kindle Edition)

A Kid’s Curiosity … A Parent’s Nightmare

The award-winning author of "Anybody’s Daughter" is back with an addictive courtroom drama that gives readers a shocking look inside the juvenile criminal justice system.

Graylin Alexander is a model fourteen-year-old. When his adolescent curiosity gets the best of him, Graylin finds himself embroiled in a sexting scandal that threatens to ruin his life. Jenny Ungerman, the attorney hired to defend Graylin, is smart, confident and committed. She isn’t thrilled, however, when ex-prosecutor Angela Evans joins Graylin’s defense team. The two women instantly butt heads. Can they put aside their differences long enough to ensure Graylin gets justice?

Unbeknownst to Angela, her boyfriend Dre is wrestling with his own drama. Someone from his past wants him dead. For Dre, his response is simple—kill or be killed.

“What’s the matter, Mrs. Singletary? Why do I have to go to the principal’s office?”
I’m walking side-by-side down the hallway with my second-period teacher. Students are huddled together staring and pointing at us like we’re zoo animals. When a teacher at Marcus Preparatory Academy escorts you to the principal’s office, it’s a big deal. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I’m a good student. I never get in trouble.
Mrs. Singletary won’t answer my questions or even look at me. I hope she knows she’s only making me more nervous.
“Mrs. Singletary, please tell me what’s wrong?”
“Just follow me. You’ll find out in a minute.”
I’m about to ask her another question when it hits me. Something happened to my mama!
My mama has been on and off drugs for as long as I can remember. I haven’t seen her in months and I don’t even know where she lives. No one does. I act like it doesn’t bother me, but it does. I’ve prayed to God a million times to get her off drugs. Even though my granny says God answers prayers, He hasn’t answered mine, so I stopped asking.
I jump in front of my teacher, forcing her to stop. “Was there a death in my family, Mrs. Singletary? Did something happen to my mama?”
“No, there wasn’t a death.”
She swerves around me and keeps going. I have to take giant steps to keep up with her.
Once we’re inside the main office, Mrs. Singletary points at a wooden chair outside Principal Keller’s office. “Have a seat and don’t move.”
She goes into the principal’s office and closes the door. My head begins to throb like somebody’s banging on it from the inside. I close my eyes and try to calm down. I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s probably just—Oh snap! The picture!
I slide down in the chair and pull my iPhone from my right pocket. My hands are trembling so bad I have to concentrate to keep from dropping it. I open the photos app and delete the last picture on my camera roll. If anyone saw that picture, I’d be screwed.
Loud voices seep through the closed door. I lean forward, straining to hear. It almost sounds like Mrs. Singletary and Principal Keller are arguing.

“It’s only an allegation. We don’t even know if it’s true.”
“I don’t care. We have to follow protocol.”
“Can’t you at least check his phone first?”
“I’m not putting myself in the middle of this mess. I've already made the call.”

The call? I can’t believe Principal Keller called my dad without even giving me a chance to defend myself. How’d she even find out about the picture?  
The door swings open and I almost jump out of my skin. The principal crooks her finger at me. “Come in here, son.”
Trudging into her office, I sit down on a red cloth chair that’s way more comfortable than the hard one outside. My heart is beating so fast it feels like it might jump out of my chest.
The only time I’ve ever been in Principal Keller’s office was the day my dad enrolled me in school. Mrs. Singletary is standing in front of the principal’s desk with her arms folded. I hope she’s going to stay here with me, but a second later, she walks out and closes the door.
Principal Keller sits on the edge of her desk, looking down at me. “Graylin, do you have any inappropriate pictures on your cell phone?”
“Huh?” I try to keep a straight face. “No, ma’am.”
“It’s been brought to my attention that you have an inappropriate picture—a naked picture—of Kennedy Carlyle on your phone. Is that true?”
“No…uh…No, ma’am.” Thank God I deleted it!
“This is a very serious matter, young man. So, I need you to tell me the truth.”
“No, ma’am.” I shake my head so hard my cheeks vibrate. “I don’t have anything like that on my phone.”
“I pray to God you’re telling me the truth.”
I don’t want to ask this next question, but I have to know. “Um, so you called my dad?”
“Yes, I did. He’s on his way down here now.”
I hug myself and start rocking back and forth. Even though I deleted the picture, my dad is still going to kill me for having to leave work in the middle of the day.
“I also made another call.”
At first I’m confused. Then I realize Mrs. Keller must’ve called my granny too. At least she’ll keep my dad from going ballistic.
“So you called my granny?”
“No.” The principal’s cheeks puff up like she’s about to blow something away. “I called the police.”


Thursday, January 11, 2018

From Flying Frogs to Beach Houses and Beyond - where will reading take your kids?

I've taken down the Christmas decorations, tidied away (most of) the cards, used up (most of) the leftovers, and hidden the extra chocolate on a top shelf. Now all that's left is to find my way back into real life--reading, writing and book reviews--catch up on cleaning and shopping (I've almost done that), and struggle to remember it's 2018.

I read a lot of children's books over Christmas--even got quite a few as presents--so I thought I'd start my reviewing year by posting reviews of them. Some, of course, should really have been reviewed before Christmas. But flying frogs won't mind... so perhaps I'll start with them. Find a suitable mug of coffee, wait a moment while I pour my own, then make your reading choice.

The Flying Frog and the Alzheimer Patient by David Yair is fifth in a series but stands alone well, and would be a perfect gift for a child whose grandparent is learning to forget. It's a sweet fun chapter book, simply illustrated, blending fantasy, adventure, and real life concerns. Enjoy this one with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

The Beach House Mystery by Tara Ellis is an exciting adventure involving brothers and sisters at the beach. Samantha and Ally are the main protagonists, making this a fun and encouraging story for girls. Thoroughly up-to-date with failing cellphone reception, but retaining the wholesome feel of old-fashioned mysteries, it's a relatively slow read with interesting facts, well-described locations (on the Olympic Peninsula), and a scary adventure. Enjoy with some lively easy-drinking two-star coffee.

I came across The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer in a bookstore and was accosted by a small boy who told me "You have to read that." So I had to read it! The boy's mother assured me her daughter loved the series too, and now I know why. Not great literature. Not classic fairytale fodder. But fascinating, fun, with relatable misfit protagonists, honest emotions, and good timing with intriguing revelations. Yes, I definitely want to read more, and I'll enjoy them with some rich, complex four-star coffee.

Two story-and-poem collections for kids from the Writers' Mill are Zeus and Bo and Fred and Joe and Co, and Carl and June: Tales of Two. I have entries in both collections, so I'm not entirely sure I'm allowed to review, but I like the way the books collect together stories from different writers with different styles, ordering them to work together, and including poetry and illustrations with the stories. Enjoy these light quick reads with some light crisp one-star coffee.

Laughing Eyes by Haya Magner is a children's collection of poetry, containing just a few poems, each beautifully illustration in color-pencil style and with great expression. The poems read a little awkwardly to my ears, unfamiliar with the cadence of the accent I guess. But I really enjoyed the sense of real children's experiences, from long hair getting into your mouth (how well I remember that one) to the place where tears come and go. One to read over a mug of lively easy-drinking two-star coffee.

My Bedtime – bedtime routines for toddlers by Amanda Hembrow is a picture book about a little boy who'd rather not go to bed. I wasn't sure about the author's advice that readers change the boy's name to fit their child, but then, I'm kind of geared toward wanting children to read along with me. I learned a few new excuses for not sleeping from this book, but I enjoyed the gradual working toward closing eyes, and I imagine it would be a good bedtime read with small children. Enjoy this lively tale with some lively two-star coffee.

Edward Dron's The Pillow Parade takes a different approach to bedtime. A gorgeously illustrated picture-book, full of humor and delight, this is one I can imagine small children asking to look at night after night. Frowny sheep are waiting to be counted. A big-eared rabbit wants to try. And it's just lyrical, beautiful fun. Enjoy the well-balanced words with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

And finally, after counting sheep and rabbits, there's a book about a penguin. PI Penguin and the case of the Christmas Lights by Bec J Smith is one I really should have read and reviewed before Christmas. It has a cool message at the end, as a lonely penguin meets his neighbors and ponder why their Christmas lights seem so much more enticing than his own. Enjoy with some bright lively two-star coffee, and keep it in mind for next Christmas.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Do you Pinterest?

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Jane Goodman to my blog. She's touring the internet with her romantic suspense novel, Secret Baby, Second Chance. And today she's inviting us into the world of Pinterest... Pinterest? Find out more about Jane and her novel at the end of this post, but first...

Over to you Jane, and thank you for visiting my blog.

My Life. One Story at a Time.

Pinterest as Inspiration for my Writing

I have to confess my love of Pinterest. You might call it an obsession. I have boards for just about everything. Recipes, planning my new kitchen, games to play with my two-year-old grandson, artwork I like. You name it, I’ll pin it.
So, naturally, I also use Pinterest to support my writing. I’m not a natural planner, so my writing boards are definitely about inspiration rather than a blueprint for each book.
There is something special about starting a new Pinterest board for a new book. I may have an idea for what the characters will look like, but that initial search can send me off on a different track. And the area in which I find Pinterest most useful is settings. The old house, the snow-capped mountains, the eerie lake. It’s so useful to have that online scrapbook in which to keep all those ideas in one place.
Secret Baby, Second Chance is the third book in the Sons of Stillwater series (there are more to come). It’s a romantic suspense story.
Vincente is the third Delaney brother I’ve written about. He’s the bad boy of the family. Half-Italian, volatile, brooding, he’s never quite fitted into the small Wyoming town of Stillwater. The only person he ever felt understood him was his girlfriend, Beth Wade. When she disappeared, everyone believed she was another victim of the Red Rose killer.
The story starts when Vincente discovers that, not only is Beth alive, she has been keeping a very important secret from him…
The Pinterest board for this story ( helped me piece together the story. More importantly, it was about defining the relationships within the book.
Although Vincente and Beth had been separated, theirs was a tender love story and finding the images to convey that was important to me. Another key part of the story was Vincente’s growing love for his daughter. There is also a dramatic sense of danger linked to the backdrop of the Wyoming mountains and Beth’s past as a climber.
I’m a visual person. Perhaps that’s why Pinterest works for me. Whatever the reason, I find it a source of inspiration and entertainment. I also enjoy sharing the journey of my Pinterest planning with my readers.
I hope you drop by and follow me, so you can see what I’m working on next.  

Wow! I would never have thought of using Pinterest that way. I suspect it might help with my writing too, or at least with keeping clear how each of the characters should appear. I'm heading over now to view your page. Meanwhile, dear readers, don't forget to read on and learn about jane Goodman's newest novel too. And thank you so much for visiting here, Jane.

Author: Jane Godman
Publisher: Harlequin
Pages: 288
Genre: Romantic Suspense


She’s alive! Vincente Delaney has finally found his girlfriend, Beth Wade, who disappeared a year and a half ago, alive. But he’s shocked to discover someone with her: their child, a little girl he never knew about! Once upon a time, lone wolf Vincente never expected forever with Beth, but now he must put everything on the line to protect her and their family.
Beth was forced to leave Vincente to protect everything she held dear. But now the threat to her loved ones’ lives has reared its ugly head again. As danger approaches, she and Vincente must delve into her past to cast out the darkness jeopardizing their future.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble


JANE GODMAN worked in a variety of shops, bars, and offices before settling into a career as a teacher. She was born in Scotland and has lived in Germany, Wales, Malta, South Africa, and England. Home is now the Wirral, a beautiful English peninsula situated between Wales and Liverpool.   
Jane still gets the urge to travel, although these days she tends to head for a Spanish beach, or a European city that is steeped in history. Venice, Dubrovnik, and Vienna are among her favorites. 
When Jane isn’t reading or writing romance, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her family. She is married to a lovely man, has two grown up children and has recently discovered the joy of becoming a grandparent. 

Jane writes paranormal romance for Harlequin Nocturne and SMP Romance, thrillers for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, and self-publishes her steamy historical and gothic stories. 
Her latest book is the romantic suspense, Secret Baby, Second Chance.



Book Excerpt:

As he approached, he sized up the building. Nothing about it made him think of Beth. It had a slightly neglected air, as if the owner didn’t have the time, energy or money to spend on it. He contrasted that with the Stillwater house she had lived in. That had been as neat as wax. Being organized seemed to come effortlessly to Beth, spilling over into how she dressed, her surroundings and how she dealt with other people. Vincente wondered, not for the first time, if the reason she had struggled with their relationship was because she couldn’t neatly package up her feelings for him. When they were together there was no controlling what they felt. It had always been raw, primal…and incredible.
The thought spurred his feet up the front step. His heart was pounding so loud it almost drowned out the sound of his knock on the door. Prepared for disappointment, his nerves—already under intense pressure—were ratcheted up to crisis level when he heard a voice calling out.

“Did you forget something, Detective ?” It wasn’t just any voice. It was Beth’s voice.

He wondered how she would react if she checked who it was through the peephole in the door. Her words indicated she thought Laurie had come back again and he heard a key turn in the lock immediately after she spoke.

The door swung open and the smile on her lips faded. As she gazed at him in shock, Vincente took a moment to drink in her appearance. Her hair was shorter, just reaching her shoulders now instead of the waist-length mass in which he had loved to bury his hands. It was scraped back into an unflattering ponytail. She looked thinner. And tired, definitely tired. Almost to the point of exhaustion. But maybe the reason for that was sitting on her hip.

The baby wore pink sweatpants and a T shirt with butterflies embroidered all over. Not quite a toddler, she was a perfect little girl. Her black hair clustered in a halo of curls around her head and she studied Vincente with eyes that were huge, dark and framed by thick, spiky lashes. The hint of olive to her skin and the full ruby lips were additional confirmation of his first suspicion. It was like looking in a mirror .

Vincente almost took a step back in shock as he gazed at his daughter.

Book Trailer:


Saturday, December 23, 2017

What's your secret?

Today I get to find out the secret which inspired that fun children's book, Mamá Graciela’s Secret by Mayra Calvani. Hurray! It's a lovely picture book with mouthwatering foods, gorgeous scenery, and cats! You can find my review of Mamá Graciela’s Secret here, and learn more about Mamá Graciela’s Secret at my earlier blogpost. But now, meet the author, and learn her real secret...

The Inspiration behind ‘Mamá Graciela’s Secret’By Mayra Calvani

All my books have a special place in my heart, but my latest children’s picture book, Mamá Graciela’s Secret, has an even more special place. This is because it was inspired by my paternal grandmother, also named Graciela.

Mamá Graciela was a very sweet, generous, selfless person. And a passionate dog lover. She rescued many dogs not from shelters but right from the streets and at one point had like 30 dogs living under her roof. She just couldn’t stand the idea of an animal suffering the harsh life of the streets. When she saw a stray dog, she had to help. Her husband wasn’t as much a dog lover as she was but he never got in the way of her helping the dogs, which was nice.

My grandparents also had a small restaurant by the beach called La Bahía (just like in the book!) and my grandmother’s talent for making pollo frito (fried chicken) was kind of well-known in Ponce, the town in the southern coast of Puerto Rico where they lived. Initially my tale was about dogs and pollo frito, very close to the real story, but after I started the submission process, an agent told me the children’s market was saturated with dog books and she suggested I changed it to cats. So that’s what I did. This naturally led to bacalaítos fritos (codfish fritters) instead of pollo frito. It worked better because bacalaítos fritos are a traditional Puerto Rican snack, which added to the ethnic quality of the book.

Mamá Graciela also loved cats and, as I understand it, she fed them outside her home, but it was difficult and potentially dangerous to keep them indoors because of the dogs… So I knew I had to combine both critters at the end of the story. My grandmother died many years ago, but I could never forget her and her love for animals, so the idea simmered in my mind for over a decade before I was ready to put it down to paper. I’m very glad I did.

Oh wow! And now I know what bacalaítos fritos are! What a wonderful story, and I'm so glad you turned it into such a wonderful book. I guess I'm still wondering how there can be too many dog books, but I really love that you included cats and dogs on your final page. You cooked up something wonderful Mayra! Thank you for making my blog taste so nice.

Mamá Graciela’s Secret
Publication date: October 10, 2017
Written by Mayra Calvani
Illustrated by Sheila Fein
MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing
36 pages, 3-7 year olds
Reading guide at: