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November News 2014

What happened?

I’ve been somewhat absent from my newsletter/blog for a month. Writing a new novel takes a lot of butt-in-chair time.

The Work-in-Progress. You can see the "timeline" on the cork board.

The Work-in-Progress. You can see the “timeline” on the cork board.

I’ve heard of National Novel Writing Month for as long as it’s been around. I never thought I would actually do it. I did this time. NaNoWriMo was the impetus I needed to finally write a solid first draft of Token, that YA (Young Adult) work-in-progress that I’ve been telling you about for the last year. I went into the month with four chapters that were not good. I spent some time improving those. I had close to seven thousand words to start. I needed 50,000 words to win (or complete) NaNoWriMo. You see, it’s a national challenge. I probably should point out that now NaNoWriMo is an international challenge. Many people win. I’m not the only one. I have 53,000 words today. There will be more by December 1. I’m officially going to the big TGIF (thank God it’s finished) party at River Oaks Book Store. Yay!!

This is the end of the receipt from a Barnes & Noble in Pasadena. Do you see Deadly Thyme down at the bottom? Whoo! Hoo!

This is the end of the receipt from a Barnes & Noble in Pasadena. Do you see Deadly Thyme down at the bottom? Whoo! Hoo!


Now, the News:

Denise, Fern, Sarah, Me

Denise, Fern, Sarah, Me

November 8 was the Houston Writer’s Guild’s first mini-conference under the new leadership team. The team consists of Denise, Fern, and myself. Denise and Fern are the new owners of the Guild. I am honored they picked me to help them steer the course. Our mini-conference was a rocking success with a good showing of members and new folks anxious to learn the craft of writing. Sarah Cortez an esteemed speaker and winner of many writing awards for her poetry books, was our speaker. People said that the day went by so fast they couldn’t believe it. There was also lots of food with breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack.

Now for the News You Can Use:

SAM_1233_edited-1March 28 of 2015 we will hold a one day pitch practice conference to help members of HWG get their pitches and presentations ready for the BIG CONFERENCE. At the pre-conference we will have actual agents for members to pitch their novels, and screenplays to. More details to come.

The next big thing is the Amazing 2015 HWG conference. There will be several agents from NYC there. We will have some Texas agents and editors and publishers there. Friends, this is Big Time! There will be agents looking for folks they want to represent to the big six publishers in NYC. There will also be a lot of break-out sessions about how to self-publish, the art of craft, the business of doing it, the “how to” market it. More details to come.

Down on The Farm

One of the things I did do this month besides have some amazing books signings around town was that I took Cora to visit my brother on his farm. We picked vegetables, Jon took us to visit the menagerie, we petted his AKC Siberians, and Jon gave us some eggs (nicer than any from the store). I want to show you some pictures from that day.SAM_1240

And I wanted to show you some artwork that my amazing sis-in-law did. She drew this from composite photos of her trips to Egypt. She painted it with coffee. Okay, you can say “wow” too.SAM_1243

Happy Thanksgiving!

SAM_1264It’s the end of the month and I want to thank you for sticking with me in reading my blog, especially when there are weeks between offerings. I appreciate every one of you. May God richly bless you in this holiday season.

I thank the Lord for His loving kindness, and mercy in keeping our family safe and well.

Don’t eat too much and watch out for the crazy drivers.

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The Body Business

The Body Business - Gay Yellen The story was a fast read from the beginning, about a woman who works for a large head-hunting corporation, at least that's what it is supposed to be, but then people keep disappearing. The woman is suspicious and has begun to suspect that the company is not what it is supposed to be. She send an email to the FBI about her missing friend. When she is contacted by someone she thinks is the FBI, but learns that the person isn't, she doesn't know who to trust. Then her friend's body is found. An action filled page-turner. The writing is flawless.

The Mystery of Hidden Valley

The Mystery of Hidden Valley - Paul Moxham I liked that this is a story written with an adventure that takes place in the 1950's. I think the characters of the children are well-suited for the time period. I liked that it was an adventure story with a cave and hidden passageways through a mountain. I liked that there was a good twist at the end. What I didn't like was that the way the children speak was more suited to the mid-west USA than England. Though it takes place in Wales, it felt more like a place in the USA. There was several places where the spelling and grammar could be improved.

That's How Much I Love You (free audio book inside): Perfect Valentine day children's picture book (ages 3-8) about mother and child love

That's How Much I Love You (free audio book inside): Perfect Valentine day children's picture book (ages 3-8) about mother and child love - Lisa Tawn Bergren, Kathryn Mills What a sweet book. I loved the illustrations. A book that is sure to please the youngest child.

Nightingale's Nest

Nightingale's Nest - Nikki Loftin When I first began Nikki Loftin's Nightingale's Nest it was with fear and trepidation because I'd listened to Nikki in person tell the story of how this book came to be written. She called it a story very close to her heart, one that had to be written. I also had heard rumors that it might be a story about abuse. So I was scared to read it because frankly, I don't like stories about abuse.

Well, I was right and I was wrong. Nightingale's Nest is about abuse, but it isn't the kind of story you would expect. Nope, it is so much more. It's beautiful for one thing, and usually stories about abuse aren't beautiful.

It made me cry. You know I'm such a sucker for stories that make me cry. But it also left me feeling full of joy at the end. (Okay, now I'm crying again.) It's true, and that's down to the talent of Nikki Loftin that she can write a Middle-grade novel that made me laugh and cry.

Nightingale's Nest is about a boy who is big and tall for his age, and a girl who is much too small for her age. The girl likes to climb trees. She's built a nest, but that isn't her special talent. Her special talent is singing. And she's waiting for her parents, certain they are looking for her. The boy isn't so sure. There's trouble in both of these children's lives. The way their lives criss-cross and touch other lives is what the story is about. It is timeless and timely. I recommend it for all ages because though kids as young as nine could read this book, and get what it is about, an adult reading it might find deeper layers of meaning.

The Murder at Sissingham Hall (An Angela Marchmont Mystery)

The Murder at Sissingham Hall (An Angela Marchmont Mystery) - Clara Benson The whodunnit was a surprise in the end. I liked the period piece. It felt appropriate for an Agatha Christie time-piece.


Faithful - Janet Fox One of those books that once you find yourself a few feet in you have become immersed in a great adventure. There is the story of the girl who wants to find her mother. Her life will be okay if only she could find her mother. She agrees to the adventure of Yellowstone because her mother might be there. This is the turn of the century. She finds a wild and dangerous place where a wrong step might get you boiled alive. And there are bears. But the biggest danger might not be from something but from someone. I'm not giving anything away. This historical YA deserves all the stars. This is writing at its best.

Death in a Summer Colony (Ray Elkins Thrillers)

Death in a Summer Colony (Ray Elkins Thrillers) - Aaron Stander This is a who-dunnit in the best of traditions. Instead of a locked room we have a blacked-out room with witnesses all around who don't see anything. The writer is very thorough with her police procedural discussions but there is enough action to keep the reader turning pages.

The Purgatorium

The Purgatorium - Eva Pohler I found the adventure fascinating, the story line believable, and the line of action acceptable. What threw me though was the ending. I'm not sure whether I should be horrified or mollified. I guess I'm trying to say that I'm confused.

Shadow of the Redeemer

Shadow of the Redeemer - Anthony Hulse The retired Detective Chief Inspector Dodd thought that the hunt was over for the horrible serial killer when they found the suspect hanging from the rafters with his latest slaughtered victim nearby. But then more victims were found. Which meant that the killer had a partner. But who could it be? One of his sons? When the family changed names and moved south to Cornwall to escape the media frenzy, more murdered girls began turning up nearby. When they went on vacation to Wales, another girl was murdered. Of course it must be one of the three sons, but who? The plot thickens and more suspects are added to the list. I could never determine who the perpetrator was. There wasn’t just the sons, someone in the police department with knowledge of the details could be copy-catting the murderer. Two police officers, including Detective Chief Inspector Dodd, become suspects for the reader. This is a fast-paced read. The suspense will not disappoint.

Miranda Bay

Miranda Bay - Susan Tarr Miranda decided to buy what had been an old mansion and turn it into a resort. When she and her cousin Pansy arrived at the old mansion they saw that it was in a shambles. Miranda had used almost all her money to buy the giant house on the bay. Now she had to find money, so she took out a mortgage with a banker named Hamilton Sofbotham.

With Pansy, an old ex-cop named Neville as groundskeeper, a possum named possumroo and a parrot named Florisa, Miranda set about to make the resort into a lovely place to stay. She tried to set it up as a health spa, when that didn’t work, she began giving lectures and charging for them.

Unfortunately, the dreaded old man banker, Hamilton, would not leave her alone with his slow and torturous ways like showing up unannounced, calling at all hours, and sexual intimidation.

Miranda began drinking, and smoking, and feeling very bad about herself and whether her venture into the hotel and resort business had been incredibly stupid.

What happened to all of these characters and especially to Miranda is what you must read the book to find out. I found that I laughed out loud in places and in some places I cried. Susan Tarr is that kind of brilliant writer.

Desolation Row

Desolation Row - Kay Kendall Desolation Row will keep you interested from page one because it is so cleverly written and the story pulls you in. I loved the characters of Austin Starr and Larissa the professor's daughter and the older police officer who liked words. I didn't get a real feel for Austin's husband, but Austin was the "star" here after all and she is gold. The time period was well drawn. I didn't know much about Canada at the time but I remember enough about the Vietnam war era to know the language and the music (Bob Dylan).

Murder by the Book

Murder by the Book - Rex Stout, David Handler Again I have been drawn to read another who-dun-it with Archie as the chronicler for Nero Wolfe. Murder by the Book does not disappoint. All the old staff and the orchids are here with their individual eccentricities. This story about the murders of a book's writer and all the people who have ever read the book is a classic, with no suspects and no leads what will Nero do?

The DCI Jones Casebook:: Ellis Flynn: 2

The DCI Jones Casebook:: Ellis Flynn: 2 - Kerry J Donovan Well-done who-done-it/police procedural/phychological suspense, October 20, 2014

I loved the DCI Jones Casebook that came before this one but this one is a clear knockout by itself. I couldn't put it down. I think I read it in one day. I'm not that fast as a reader but I just did not stop. This was great. Ellis Flynn was well-drawn and frightful. But the guy who was behind Ellis was even worse. The fact that he had the money to create this network of monsters, well, I can't tell you how well-done the writing was to keep me so focused on getting to the page-turning ending.


WATERMELON - Kate Hanney What a great book. The language is rough but realistic. Young Mikey's mother doesn't want him. The last "carers" were terrible. Now he has no where to go but for the group home. And things go downhill from there. School was okay but hanging with his new mate, Shane, is much more exciting. Shane is involved in some shady things. I love that the author paints Mikey with multidimensional hues. He isn't bad, but he makes some unwise decisions. He realizes they are unwise but then it's too late.

Highly recommended - new adult level novel.

Tigerlily's Orchids

Tigerlily's Orchids - Ruth Rendell Ruth Rendell does it again. The story starts out slow but knowing her other books I knew there was a good reason for this. It reminded me of Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street books. There are several POV's from lots of interesting characters, who lived in various (apartment) buildings along one street. I couldn't decide who was going to get killed and who was going to do the killing. They were all suspects for each. So happy that some story lines became so happy (I was satisfied by the outcome). I loved that there was a man across the street from the main building that kept an eye on people and had little stories made up about all of them.

There were places in the book I actually smiled while reading. I was completely taken by surprise by who did the killing. Wow. Great job of writing.

Black Jasmine

Black Jasmine - Toby Neal Black Jasmine wasn't as wonderful as Blood Orchid but it was pretty good. I appreciate the tour of Hawaii and the flavorful pigeon english that ensues. The story starts out with the investigation of a body in a car that apparently drove over a cliff. At first glance it looks like suicide but then the ligature marks on the girl's wrists indicate she'd been held captive. The investigation leads to a larger scale operation of drugs, gun-running, and the sex slave market via cruise ships.

Again, as with the first book, there are mistakes - example: Loc 175 "Usually Hawaiians took each one another in; it was shame to the family for..."

Usually, the mistakes did not detract from the good story.

Detective Lei Texeira has her hands full of problems. She enjoys her job but her relationship with the gorgeous Stevens is at a crossroads and she doesn't know what to do about it. I wasn't keen with her reaction and her decision.

The action is great in the novel. Lei tends to get beat up in various ways again. It sometimes doesn't come across as realistic.

The problems escalate as she realizes there is a contract out on her, and she must remain stationary to recover.

Lots of reasons to like the book.