Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Book Review: Deceptive Promises by Amber Miller

A touching love story with a dash of adventure awaits you in Deceptive Promises (Delaware Brides Series #3) by Amber Miller.

Margret Scott finds herself attracted to enigmatic and charming Samuel Lowe. It does tax her heart, however, that she must keep him a secret from her family. Samuel's duties have him working for both sides in the war between the colonists and the British soldiers, and Margret is not always sure where Samuel's loyalties lie.

As her interest in the political environment surrounding New Castle increases, Margret continues to secretly meet with Samuel when he can briefly escape from his posts. He promises Margret can trust him, and she promises him that she does. But can deceptive promises be trusted? Can a relationship built on such uncertainty survive?

In the third book of the Delaware Brides Series, Miller sets this love story against the backdrop of the American Revolution. As with Quills & Promises before it, the pains of a growing nation during a time of war play a large role in the development of the story. In this book, however, I find that Miller did an even finer job of relaying the events of the day through dialogue, internal thought, and narrative than she did in the previous installment.

Miller's strength has always been her characters, and that is no different in Deceptive Promises. Marget, whose mind was once filled with fashions coming over from England, gains an interest in current events and the war efforts due to her secretive relationship with Samuel. On the other hand, Samuel, finds himself fighting his desire to be with Margret while performing his duties. And while Samuel knows where his loyalties lie, his actions sometimes leave Margret feeling uncertain, making it impossible for her to admit her growing fondness for Samuel to her family. If she can't understand him, how could they?

The Delaware Brides Series follows three generations of the same family. Had I known that at the onset, I would have purchased all three books together and read them in order. However, since these all read well as stand-alones, you'll miss nothing if you read them out of order. Some of the main characters in the first novella, play minor roles in the second, and some of those also appear in the third, so even though the love stories are isolated, it's nice to follow along with the family's history.

My one tiny criticism is that I don't care for the cover art of this book. The woman on the front cover appears much older than Margret would be for the story. We meet her at age fifteen, and though years pass during this story, the cover woman's look appears too old. In addition, her eyes are closed, as if awaiting Samuel's kiss, and it just gives her this air of swooning, which didn't seem to match Margret's overall personality, especially as things progressed throughout the story.

That aside, if you want to be drawn into a touching inspirational love story set during the American Revolution, Deceptive Promises by Amber Miller is the book for you.

Note: The Delaware Brides Series has recently been repackaged by the publisher and is now sold as a three-in-one story collection titled, Liberty's Promise (Romancing America). The author's name has also been updated to Amber Miller Stockton, to reflect her married name. This three-in-one is available at a suggested retail price of $7.97.

Title: Deceptive Promises
Author: Amber Miller
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc HP #823
ISBN-10: 1602601895
ISBN-13: 978-1602601895
SRP: $4.95

Book Review: Promises, Promises by Amber Miller

Tragedy, hard work, and faith blend together to create an inspirational love story in Promises, Promises (Delaware Brides Series #1) by Amber Miller.

Raelene Strattford had come to America with her mother and father, who yearn for a better life. When a tragic accident takes both her parents from her, Raelene feels forsaken by the same God who has promised never to leave her.

Gustaf Hanssen's admiration for Raelene is obvious. After a failed attempt to court her, he is unwelcome in her life. When Gustaf promises her dying father that he will take care of her, Gustaf finds himself in the unenviable position of being reminded by the angry Raelene of how little he means to her, and how his God can do nothing for her now that she has been left alone in a strange land.

As Raelene longs for the days back in England, she works alongside Gustaf on the farm to fulfill her father's dreams, scorning Gustaf at every turn. Can God reach through Raelene's pain and self-centeredness and give her the love that awaits?

In this powerful first book in her Delaware Brides Series, Miller brings together two characters from distinctly different backgrounds, who are forced to deal with each other because of promises they have made to the same man--Raelene's father. Though he has been rejected by Raelene in past, Gustaf does not deny the dying man's request to care for his daughter, which makes him an admirable hero from the start. Raelene's continued mistreatment of Gustaf turns him into a sympathetic character, and the reader finds herself hoping that Gustaf wins Raelene's heart. His faith in God never wavers, and it is through his faith that Gustaf is able to endure Raelene's disposition toward him and the difficult task of finding a husband for her, while still wishing she would see him as something more than a farm boy.

Raelene, on the other hand, has the reader's sympathy right from the start. Here she is, a young woman all alone in a strange land, tied to a promise made to her dying father that she will tend to the farm and turn it into what he dreamed about. Not an easy task for a young woman dealing with the sudden loss of her parents. Smartly, however, Miller uses Raelene's treatment of Gustaf, her past refusal of him, and her anger at God to lessen the sympathy of the reader. This makes it all the more thrilling when Raelene's heart begins to soften toward Gustaf.

Set in 1739, Miller's historical details provide the reader with a time and place for this moving love story. I would easily read this one again if I had the time.

Historical inspirational romance at its best, Promises, Promises by Amber Miller should be on your "to be read" list if you enjoy this genre.

Title: Promises, Promises
Author: Amber Miller
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc; HP #784
ISBN-10: 1597899399
ISBN-13: 978-1597899390
SRP: $4.95

Time’s Up: A Guide on How to Leave and Survive Abusive and Stalking Relationships by Susan Murphy-Milano

FROM: ImaginePublicity

Delilah Jones
PO Box 14946
Surfside Beach, SC 29587

For Immediate Release

Time’s Up for Victims of Domestic Abuse

March 31, 2010……With the proliferation of deaths due to domestic violence, something has to be done, something different, and something effective. Susan Murphy-Milano, a 20 year veteran of family violence will be releasing her newest book, “Time’s Up” A Guide on How to Leave and Survive Abusive and Stalking Relationships, on April 12, 2010.

“Time’s Up” guides the victim towards safety by showing them the unseen pitfalls of leaving a violent relationship and how to navigate around them. “Time’s Up” also has explicit details and instructions how to fill out an “Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit”, one of the unique things that Murphy-Milano has created and used through the years in high danger cases which has saved the lives of many.

Susan Murphy-Milano is a specialist in family violence and works nationally with domestic violence programs, law enforcement and prosecutors providing technical and consulting services in “high risk” domestic violence and stalking related cases. Her principal objective is to intervene before a victim is seriously injured or killed. In 1999, Susan was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame for her work on behalf of Women’s Rights. In 2001, Susan received the Women with Vision Award from the Illinois Bar Association.

Author of “Defending Our Lives” Doubleday books and “Moving Out Moving On” when a relationship goes wrong, Susan is host of The Susan Murphy Milano Show and is also a contributor to “Time’s Up!” and “Women In Crime Ink” online. With co-stars, Dennis Griffin and Vito Colucci, Susan will be participating in the new television show, “Crime Wire” which will examine cases in which the investigations have left questions unanswered and possible criminal activity unexposed.

For more information:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

“Mystery and Adventure” is Theme of New Novel: Anasazi Intrigue by Linda Weaver Clarke

Stolen artifacts, the Santa Clara/Virgin River flood, a snoopy newspaper reporter, and mysterious events begin to unfold with Anasazi Intrigue.

When a devastating flood wipes out homes in a small town, residents are shocked by the news of a possible poison spill that also kills many of the fish and neighbor's pets. The people don’t know what to think or do, until Julia, the town's newest reporter, jumps into action and begins her investigation. Quickly Julia realizes the story is much bigger and more dangerous than she thought. As information unfolds, Julia and her husband find themselves on the run, trying to save their lives while finishing the story of a lifetime. She never realized that being a reporter could be so dangerous. With artifacts, dead fish, a devastating flood, and miscreants, John and Julia have their hands full.

In Anasazi Intrigue (ISBN: 978-1-58982-587-1), Clarke creates a story based upon an independent, educated, and strong woman character. Suko’s Notebook Reviews said of Clarke’s writing: “Linda Weaver Clarke is outstanding at presenting the characters' thoughts.”

There are two subjects discussed in this novel: The Santa Clara/Virgin River Flood and stolen artifacts. The mystery of the Anasazi Indians boggles the minds of many archaeologists. Ancient dwellings, petroglyphs, and pottery found in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico are fantastic and part of Anasazi history. When an ancient ruin is discovered, it doesn’t take long for thieves to take it apart. Archaeological thievery is becoming more and more of a problem every year.

The second subject brings out what really happened during the flooding in southern Utah. Lost homes can be replaced, but it’s impossible to replace precious treasures that had no value to anyone but the owner, such as photos and memories of the past. The stories of hope, charity, and little miracles seem to uplift others and have a wonderful effect on people during a crisis such as this. Clarke’s novel brings out what really happened in St George, Utah but the mystery is just beginning.

About the Author:

Linda Weaver Clarke travels throughout the United States, teaching a “Family Legacy Workshop,” encouraging others to write their family history and autobiography. Clarke is the author of the historical fiction series, A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho, and the new mystery series, Anasazi Intrigue: The Adventures of John and Julia Evans.

Anasazi Intrigue (ISBN-13: 978-1-58982-587-1, American Book Publishing, 2010) can be purchased through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit Publicity contact:

Review and Giveaway at Turning Back the Clock

Diane over at Turning Back the Clock is running a great giveaway to celebrate Earth Day.

Check out her review of Be Cool, Follow Earth's Rule by Penelope Ann Kysiak. This book teaches young children the importance of taking care of our planet. Then enter for your chance to win a copy of Be Cool, Follow Earth's Rule.

A winner will be selected on April 10th, so make sure you visit Turning Back the Clock today! You can find details on how to enter and increase your chances of winning by clicking here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Review: Murder in Baker Company by Cilla McCain

Murder in Baker Company: How Four American Soldiers Killed One of Their Own is a compelling, yet unnerving military crime read.

After serving in Bosnia, Army Specialist Richard T. Davis reenlisted in time for the invasion of Iraq. He would make it through the bloody, savage battle known as the Midtown Massacre and return on July 12, 2003 to Fort Benning, Georgia. Richard looked forward to reuniting with his parents soon in St. Charles, Missouri.

That reunion never happened.

When Richard's father, a career army officer, received a call stating his son was AWOL, he knew something was terribly wrong. After wading through months of red tape, an official investigation into Richard Davis's disappearance was opened. In November 2003, Richard's remains were discovered in a small patch of woods in Columbus. He had been viciously murdered and his body set on fire. Four members of Richard's platoon were arrested for the crime.

This is the story of his parents' nightmare to discover the truth of what happened to their son; a nightmare that seems to have no end.

In this thoroughly researched account, author Cilla McCain traces the events in the case of the murder of Army Specialist Richard Davis. Using court transcripts, personal interviews, and police records, McCain's journey to assist Remy and Lanny Davis in uncovering the truth behind their son's horrific murder and the cover-up that followed, provides the reader with a disturbing look into today's military.

I finished Murder in Baker Company a while ago. It has taken me many weeks to sit down and write this review. The picture of today's military that is portrayed in this book is disconcerting at best. I doubt anyone wants to believe the events as they have been written about in this book are true. Our soldiers are the good guys. And let me point out what I feel is very important here, the author does not take away from any of the good that our military has done with this account. McCain comes from a large army family, and therefore, she takes great pains to share what her research into the murder of Richard Davis and the subsequent trial indicated, without damning the military as a whole.

What Murder in Baker Company brings to light are issues that are of importance to military families and civilians. Due to being spread too thin is the military accepting applicants that might have been turned down in the past? Are psychological issues overlooked or treated with medication that is taken without proper instructions or monitored to keep the soliders performing? Is treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder stigmatized? Are gang members making their way onto our barracks?

This book immediately called to mind the disappearance of Lance Corporal Maria Frances Lauterbach from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina on December 14, 2007. Lauterbach was eight months pregnant when she disappeared. The charred remains of Lauterbach and her unborn child were found in a fire pit in Corporal Cesar Armando Laurean`s backyard. Lauterbach had once accused Laurean of rape.

Some of the more troubling aspects of the Richard Davis case revealed in this book are:

* The time that elapsed before the army opened an official investigation into Davis's disappearance

* The lack of solid information provided to Lanny and Remy Davis about their son's murder

* A November 2003 letter typed on Fort Benning stationery and signed "Men of Baker Company" that was mailed to members of the local media and legal communities of nearby Columbus, Georgia from unknown soldiers just back from America's march through Baghdad, pleading for help

* The theft of Richard Davis's personal belongings

* The disappearance of Davis's camera in light of certain comments about how he had messed up or had seen something

* The investigation into the shooting deaths of three Iraqi soldiers on April 11, 2003 and the questionable actions of the Batallion Commander

The list could go on, but the point is that McCain makes a compelling case that forces us to wonder who is responsible for what happened to Richard Davis. Could his murder have been prevented? Mark Shelnutt, a criminal defense attorney, who represented Specialist Douglas Woodcoff, who was accused in Davis's murder, believes the tragedy never should have happened, and that McCain's telling of this story will save lives. He says as much on the back cover.

While McCain has managed to put together an account that is as engaging as a novel, the tragedy is that this isn't fiction. Richard Davis lost his life, and no one, not even his parents, has learned everything about what happened the night Richard was murdered.

I highly recommend this book. It's difficult to read, but it's well worth your time.

Title: Murder in Baker Company: How Four American Soldiers Killed One of Their Own
Author: Cilla McCain
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
ISBN-10: 1556529473
ISBN-13: 978-1556529474
SRP: $24.95

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Author Spotlight: James Hayman and The Cutting

Someone is Stealing the Hearts of Beautiful Young Women.

NYPD homicide detective Mike McCabe left New York for Maine to escape his own dark past and to find a refuge from the violence of the big city for himself and his teenaged daughter, but on the fog-shrouded, cobblestone streets of Portland he finds far more than he bargained for.

On a warm September evening the mutilated body of Katie Dubois, a pretty high school soccer star, turns up, dumped in a Portland scrap yard. Her heart has been neatly and expertly cut from her body. The same day Lucinda Cassidy, a young Portland business-woman and competitive runner, disappears during her morning jog.

Soon other bodies turn up. All young, all blond, all athletes. Very quickly McCabe discovers he’s on the trail of no ordinary killer. Rather his prey is a brilliant, psychopathic surgeon who kills in a bizarre way to satisfy his own strange and frightening desires.

McCabe knows he has to move fast. He has less than one week to find the killer before Cassidy dies and Casey, McCabe’s own daughter is threatened.

He also knows the clock is ticking.


Read an Excerpt!

Standing here in a scrap yard in Portland, Maine, McCabe suddenly had the feeling he was back in New York. It wasn’t like he was imagining it. Or remembering it. It was like he was really there. He could hear the rush of the city. He could smell the stink of it. A hundred bloodied corpses paraded before his eyes.

His right hand drew comfort from resting on the handle of his gun. Mike McCabe once again lured to the chase.

He knew with an absolute certainty that this was his calling. That it was here, among the killers and the killed, that he belonged. No matter how far he ran, no matter how well he hid, he’d never leave the violence or his fascination with it behind.

Read the Reviews!

"An extraordinary debut and an exceptional thriller, THE CUTTING is razor-sharp, heartfelt and superbly written. James Hayman is a tremendous new voice in crime fiction."

-Julia Spencer-Fleming, Edgar finalist and author of I SHALL NOT WANT

"Big-city wicked invades the Pine Tree State in James Hayman’s THE CUTTING. This is a stunning debut that gripped me from first page to last. A thriller of a thriller!"

-Tess Gerritsen, New York Times Best-Selling Author of THE KEEPSAKE

"First-novelist Hayman ratchets up the tension in this engrossing account of a deviously motivated psychopathic serial killer."

-Michele Leber, Booklist

"In “The Cutting,” (Hayman) gives readers a suspenseful police procedural whirling around a character who has the brains, courage and human concern to be the reader’s hero from start to finish. All in all, if that sounds like a rave review, it’s because I intend this to be one. Rarely does a new novelist make a debut, in Maine or anywhere else, as polished, well-paced and plotted as this one. Even less often does a writer create characters as well-drawn and centered as Hayman gives us with his Portland Police Detective Sgt. Mike McCabe, three years into life in his new city."

-Nancy Grape, Portland Press-Herald

"Suspense, superb writing, and a stellar plot combine to create an outstanding debut in James Hayman’s The Cutting."

-The Book Connection

Like McCabe, I’m a native New Yorker. He was born in the Bronx. I was born in Brooklyn. We both grew up in the city. He dropped out of NYU Film School and joined the NYPD, rising through the ranks to become the top homicide cop at the Midtown North Precinct. I graduated from Brown and joined a major New York ad agency, rising through the ranks to become creative director on accounts like the US Army, Procter & Gamble, and Lincoln/Mercury.

We both married beautiful brunettes. McCabe’s wife, Sandy dumped him to marry a rich investment banker who had “no interest in raising other people’s children.” My wife, Jeanne, though often given good reason to leave me in the lurch, has stuck it out through thick and thin and is still my wife. She is also my best friend, my most attentive reader and a perceptive critic.

Both McCabe and I eventually left New York for Portland, Maine. I arrived in August 2001, shortly before the 9/11 attacks, in search of the right place to begin a new career as a fiction writer. He came to town a year later, to escape a dark secret in his past and to find a safe place to raise his teenage daughter, Casey.

There are other similarities between us. We both love good Scotch whiskey, old movie trivia and the New York Giants. And we both live with and love women who are talented artists.

There are also quite a few differences. McCabe’s a lot braver than me. He’s a better shot. He likes boxing. He doesn’t throw up at autopsies. And he’s far more likely to take risks. McCabe’s favorite Portland bar, Tallulah’s, is, sadly, a figment of my imagination. My favorite Portland bars are all very real.

You can visit our website at

Follow James Hayman's tour all month long at!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Author Spotlight: Kevin Coupe and Michael Sansolo and The Big Picture

Movies are magical. They can release us from the stress of everyday life. But movies also contain valuable lessons to improve the way we do business.

In their entertaining new book, The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons From the Movies, authors Kevin Coupe and Michael Sansolo show how to use the stories in movies to solve problems in business. From The Godfather to Tootsie, from The Wedding Singer to Babe, the authors use more than sixty of their favorite movies to teach important lessons about branding, customer service, leadership, planning, ethics, and innovation.

Readers learn how to use stories from the movies to communicate clearly with employees, clients, and customers.

Read an Excerpt!

Take 4 - Comedy

Babe (1995)

Be Different

Rated RB Rule Breakers

by Michael Sansolo

There is a phrase that should never be uttered in business. It consists of the seven forbidden words:

“That’s the way we’ve always done it!”

You know you have heard the phrase and it is possible that you have even said it. The cumulative impact of the phrase is a non-stop assault on creativity, innovation, and rule breaking—the very activities virtually every company should encourage.

There is a cure for this unbridled corporate conservatism in the form of the delightful movie Babe. Every time the phrase “That’s the way we’ve always done it!” is uttered, force that person to watch Babe. In fact, watch it yourself. It’s worth it.

On the surface, Babe appears to be a child’s movie. It isn’t, although it is great for children, too. It’s the story of a pig, Babe, who is the runt of the litter destined for the slaughterhouse. Babe is saved from this fate when he is given to a local fair to be handed out as a prize, which is won by taciturn farmer Arthur Hoggett, wonderfully played by James Cromwell.

Once at Hoggett’s farm, Babe does something unusual: he stops behaving like a pig, for the simple reason that he doesn’t know he’s a pig. He consorts with all manner of animals like Ma the old sheep, Ferdinand the duck, and the litter of sheepdogs living in the barn. With his polite manners and naïve ways, Babe becomes a friend to all the animals, many of whom do not get along and clearly do not respect each other. (Hmmm, sounds more like an office with each passing moment.)

Farmer Hoggett begins to notice Babe’s social abilities when Babe divides all the chickens in the yard into groups of similar colors. Soon, Farmer Hoggett gives Babe a chance to show his stuff at the most important animal job on the farm, herding the sheep.

That’s where Babe the pig and Babe the movie shine. By breaking all the rules—“the way things are,” as the animals remind him—Babe becomes an outstanding herder. Although the dogs consider the sheep too dumb to understand anything other than a nasty approach and the sheep consider the dogs too stupid to talk with, Babe bridges the divide with friendship and manners. Slowly but surely, even the most reluctant animals begin to understand the wisdom of Babe.

Babe is a simple story, but it contains an important lesson. Think of how many businesses have stuck to the way things always are and completely missed the opportunity to become something entirely new, bigger, and better. Some have taken those opportunities:

• MTV didn’t invent video or records, but pulled them together into an entirely new cable channel. CBS, in contrast, owned a television network and a record company, but missed the chance.
• Barack Obama did not discover social networking, but his advanced use of the concept of Internet connections helped his fundraising and campaigning. John McCain’s presence on YouTube or Facebook was a fraction of Obama’s.
• Google wasn’t the first company to offer a search engine for the Internet, but its speed and efficiency helped create a cyberspace dynamo that dwarfs AltaVista, Yahoo, or even Microsoft.

MTV, the Obama campaign, and Google all had their Babe moments. They ignored “the way things are always done” and built astounding success by identifying possibilities and filling them with a value proposition that viewers, listeners, and shoppers learned to love.

Babe connects on many levels. The parallel of animal and human behavior has been shown often in the movies, from Charlotte’s Web to Animal Farm. But Babe delivered a winning story told in a creative style and with a lesson that could stand the test of time. In fact, the movie was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, an uncommon honor for a “children’s” movie.

Be on the lookout for those seven deadly words of business, those seven words that limit your horizons and suck the creativity and spirit out of your people. When someone says, “That’s the way we’ve always done it!” launch a counter-attack with the story of a pig that refused to accept things the way they were.

Read the Reviews!

“The connection between the movies and business wisdom has been there all along. It took Kevin and Michael to bring it into sharp, digital-age focus.”
– Gerry Lopez, CEO, AMC Entertainment Inc.

“The Big Picture will open your mind about the power of storytelling, whether it’s for a speech, a business presentation, or a one-on-one with a business associate or a member of your family. Great job, Kevin and Michael. You have given me a new reason to go to the movies.”
– Jim Donald, CEO, Haggen, Inc. and former CEO, Starbucks Coffee Company

“This wonderful book proves what I have always believed: Movies teach us everything we need to know in business if we would only listen.”
– Beau Fraser, co-author, Death to all Sacred Cows and Managing Director, The Gate Worldwide

“The Big Picture updates the old adage that a (movie) picture is worth a thousand words. A very worthwhile book.”
– Stu Upson, Executive Director, United States Bowling Congress

“Stew Leonard’s loves stories. We are a story telling organization. That’s why The Big Picture will be staple in our management’s library at Stew’s. I loved it and it’s a must read!”
– Stew Leonard Jr., CEO, Stew Leonard’s

“This is the kind of useful and enjoyable book business people like me need to share in our companies.”
– Robert Phillips, President, California Tortilla Group, Inc.

“To enjoy a film is a treat! To add to that by learning a valuable business lesson from that film is a profit. To be steered to achieve both a treat and a profit by reading The Big Picture is a true adventure!”
– Senator Feargal Quinn, founder of Superquinn and former President of EuroCommerce

“Michael and Kevin have written an informative and useful business book that’s also fun to read and easy to apply. What a creative approach to business.”
– Thom Blischok, President, Consulting & Innovation, Information Resources, Inc.

"Read the engaging and idea packed book The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies by Michael Sansolo and Kevin Coupe, and prepare to discover valuable and timeless business knowledge through the enjoyment of the best offerings of the silver screen."
- Blog Business World

"Every business leader should have a copy of The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies on their desks and refer to it often."
- The Book Connection

"I highly recommend this book and give it a thumbs up!"
- A Mom After God's Own Heart

Kevin Coupe has been a working writer all his professional life. For the past decade, he’s had his own website/blog——providing what he calls “business news in context, and analysis with attitude.”

In addition to speaking at hundreds of conferences in the U.S. and abroad and reporting from 45 states and six continents, Kevin has been a newspaper reporter, video producer, actor, bodyguard, clothing salesman, supervised a winery tasting room, ran two marathons (slowly), drove a race car (badly), took boxing lessons (painfully), and acted in a major (and obscure) motion picture.

Kevin is married with three children and lives in Connecticut.

Michael Sansolo has traveled around the world one supermarket at a time, yet stopped to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Great Wall of China, and Pikes Peak. A native New Yorker, Sansolo is a consultant and frequent speaker for the food retail industry, and is a contributing editor and weekly columnist for, a daily newsletter on the retail industry.

Sansolo was the senior vice president of the Food Marketing Institute and was editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer magazine. Favorite book: The Big Picture (of course), and The Great Gatsby; favorite food: Sal’s Pizza; favorite team: the Mets; favorite movies: read The Big Picture!

Sansolo, his family, and his very annoying beagle live in the suburbs of Washington, DC.

You can also find Michael at

Author Spotlight: Joy DeKok and Raccoon Tales

Raccoon Tales is the true-life journey in the first year of the lives of these little “wash bears.” Written in easy-to-read verse, author, Joy DeKok, tells the story with tenderness and energy. Readers will leave the story glad they came, knowing more about raccoons, and what a wild animal rescue and release looks like. Illustrator Leslie Helen Colwin’s art brings the story to life.

Read the Excerpt!

Five baby raccoons lost their mother one day,

They needed help and a safe place to stay.

They were tiny, and their eyes were shut tight,

I wondered if they would be all right.

I held them close and promised I’d try

To give each of them a chance at life.

We fed them and gave them a place to play.

Then we sat nearby and started to pray,

“Lord, please keep them in Your care,

And thank You for these little “wash-bears”!

They snuggled into their blankets that night,

And we whispered, “Sweet dreams and sleep tight.”

Baby raccoons need lots of sleep.

They would yawn and pile into a furry heap.

Later, they’d purr and churr and cry out loud,

Letting us know they wanted out!

They’d enjoy a snack of warm milk and rice,

And thought being held was especially nice.

Read the Reviews!

"Raccoon Tales is a beautiful story. Joy shares her time with these wild ones tenderly and realistically. It’s fun to read it out loud and it’s even more fun to hear it read. My great grandchildren love Raccoon Tales." -Ruth Pater

"There’s so much to enjoy in Raccoon Tales by Joy DeKok." -The Children's and Teens' Book Connection

"DeKok tells this story with charming rhyme and with the belief and reassurance that God is watching over all, including animals." -The Crypto-Capers Review

Joy is an author, national speaker, and author coach. From the time she was a little girl, she wanted to write for children. She has three published children’s books, a novel, and a devotional. You’re invited to visit her website at:

Visit Joy's tour stops during the month of March at

Monday, March 22, 2010

Book Review: 41 Things to Know About Autism by Chantal Sicile-Kira

Has your child recently been diagnosed with autism? Are you the grandparent of a child who has autism? Are you a friend who wants to know how to help someone whose child has autism?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you should consider purchasing 41 Things to Know about Autism by Chantal Sicile-Kira.

In this informative and helpful book from the Good Things to Know line from Turner Publishing, readers will learn what autism is, what does and doesn’t cause autism, what to do after your child is diagnosed with autism, and so much more.

Autism advocate and award-winning author Chantal Sicile-Kira, uses her over 20 years of experience as the parent of an autisic child and a professional in the field, to create a book that will help you, your loved ones, and your friends learn more about autism and how to create a better environment for your child.

The book discusses how to determine your child’s educational needs; how to gain a better picture of your child; emotional and financial effects of autism on the family; why holidays are difficult for families with autism, and many other topics that will be invaluable to families with members who have been diagnosed.

The author’s passion for this subject is obvious from the beginning. She truly wants people to understand what autism is and what it isn’t. With this one tiny book, Sicile-Kira has provided parents with the basic tools they will need before and after the diagnosis.

To learn more about this book and its author, please visit the author’s website. This book will be released on March 25th.

Title: 41 Things to Know About Autism
Author: Chantal Sicile-Kira
Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
ISBN-10: 1596525835
ISBN-13: 978-1596525832
SRP: $9.99

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Product Review: The Original Bed Buddy Hot & Cold Pack

Working from home is great; but unlike working in an office, there aren't distractions to make me get up and down constantly.

What that usually means is that I don't take as many breaks as I should, leading to sore and tight neck muscles. I had tried a heating pad to relieve the pain when it gets severe enough that it interferes with my productivity. Problem is, there is no way to get a heating pad to sit around your neck while you work.

My mother-in-law purchased for me The Original Bed Buddy Hot & Cold Pack and suggested I give it a try. I love this thing!

Made of 100% organic materials, the soft cloth cover is filled with a grain that provides moist heat to your aching muscles. It comes with two coated handles that allow you to secure the product around your body. I'm not sure if you're supposed to do that, but that's what I do to prevent all the grains from falling to the two ends and providing no relief to my neck.

You simply take The Original Bed Buddy Hot & Cold Pack and warm it in the microwave for up to a minute and a half. Let it sit in the microwave for a minute, then place it on the sore area. This product can also be put in the freezer and used as a cold pack, but I have never used it that way.

I find after a long day of sitting in front of my computer, it is nice to relax with a cup of tea and a good book, with The Original Bed Buddy Hot & Cold Pack around my neck.

You can not get this product wet, and it is not meant for diabetics or individuals with circulation issues.

Product Dimensions: 2 x 2 x 4 inches; 2 pounds
Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
UPC: 632615019995
SRP: $14.95

Friday, March 12, 2010

DVD Review: Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story

The final DVD in the 3-DVD set my husband purchased for me that Christmas is Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story, which is often referred to as Anne 3.

Sullivan Entertainment totally departs from Lucy Maud Montgomery's books in the third installment of the Anne of Green Gables series. In Montgomery's books, it would be Anne and Gilbert's sons who go off to fight in World War I; but using the reasoning that the original movie and its sequel were set in later time periods than the books, Sullivan puts Anne Shirley (Megan Follows) and Gilbert Blythe (Jonathan Crombie) right in the middle of the fighting.

Anne returns to Avonela for the first time since Marilla Cuthbert's death. She is horrified to find her beloved Green Gables in total disrepair. After being accepted by a prestigious hospital in New York, Gilbert convinces his fiancee, Anne, to go to New York with him. While there, she gains employment at a large publishing house, where she meets Jack Garrison, a dashingly handsome and talented American writer played by Cameron Daddo.

Disullusioned by life in the city, Gilbert and Anne return to Avonlea, where they begin planning their wedding. But the Great War soon steals any joy they might have. Anne's childhood friend, Diana Barry Wright (Schuyler Grant) unhappy in her marriage to Fred, played now by Greg Spottiswood, finds that Fred has enlisted, leaving Diana and their two children behind. Pressure from the community and seeing the wounded at an area hospital, leads Gilbert to ask Anne to marry him quickly so that he, too, can enlist.

Fred Wright is listed as missing in action and presumed dead. When all of Anne's letters to Gilbert are returned, Anne heads off to Europe, determined to do all she can to find him. While there she is reunited with Fred, who is badly injured, and Jack Garrison, who is working as a war correspondent. Little did Anne know what she would get herself into when she decided to go searching for Gil.

This is by far my least favorite of the Anne of Green Gables series. While it is wonderful to see Follows and Crombie together again, the plot just does nothing for me. And because of the war scenes, this installment has a PG rating instead of a G rating like the first two movies. Granted, Anne and Gilbert are older now, but if they didn't choose to send Anne off to Europe to find Gilbert, they might have been able to keep it a family film.

Considering the time that has passed between the second and third movies, it's not realistic for viewers to think only a few years have passed since Anne and Gilbert were in Avonlea. Even Green Gables appears not to have been maintained for decades. Both Follows and Crombie, though still young, don't look like twentysomethings; Grant might have been able to pull it off, but even that is a stretch.

I was also disappointed that Diana and Fred's marriage was in such trouble. Diana was barely likable in this movie until the very end. The one character that I truly enjoyed was Jack Garrison, though the viewer has more reasons not to like him, he was the one that rang true to me.

My final complaint is Jack and Anne's relationship. Jack, who has been in love with Anne since they met in New York, helps Anne in her search to find Gilbert. When they go to a hospital where they find Gilbert had been months before, it looks like Gil might be dead. Jack tries to convince Anne that they could go back to the States once the war is over, and with his son, Dominic, become a family. Jack kisses Anne, and she accepts. The Anne I know and love wouldn't betray Gilbert that way. In addition, toward the end of the movie, when they are on a train, Anne tells Jack that we all have unfulfilled dreams and kisses him gently on the cheek. This is soon after they found Gilbert. I was just appalled by how they changed Anne's character in these scenes.

Considering that when Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story came out, Executive Producer Kevin Sullian said this would be the last Anne film, I was left disappointed. Of course, now we know there is an Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning, which has none of the original actors, but has been even less well-received than the third Anne movie.

When I think of Anne of Green Gables, I only think of the first two movies. Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story is a movie that I take out and watch only one scene: Anne and Gilbert's reunion. I truly wish Sullivan Entertainment had stuck closer to Montgomery's books if he wished to continue Anne's story.

Director: Stefan Scaini
Writers: Lucy Maud Montgomery (characters)
Laurie Pearson (writer)
Kevin Sullivan (writer)
Rated: PG
Runtime: 185 min
Region: Region 1
SRP: $24.99

Mrs. Renfro's Salsa Giveaway at Confessions of an Overworked Mom

My friend Ellen at Confessions of an Overworked Mom is always running great giveaways. If you don't follow her blog, you're really missing out on a lot of fabulous stuff.

Today she posted about a giveaway she is running for Mrs. Renfro's salsas. Her family, like mine, loves salsa. It makes a yummy quick snack with tortilla chips, and I like it on my tacos.

When I went to follow RenFro Foods on Twitter, I also discovered they are celebrating 70 years by running a recipe contest. You can find details on their website.

But back to Ellen's giveaway. Stop by Confessions of an Overworked Mom and become a follower of the blog. Leave a comment with your email address stating which of Mrs. Renfro's salsas you would like to try.

There are more ways to gain additional entries too. The last day to enter is March 19th, so make sure you stop by right now and enter.

Good luck!

Author Spotlight: George Bishop and Letter to My Daughter

Dear Elizabeth,

It’s early morning and I’m sitting here wondering where you are, hoping you’re all right.

A fight, ended by a slap, sends Elizabeth out the door of her Baton Rouge home on the eve of her fifteenth birthday. Her mother, Laura, is left to fret and worry—and remember. Wracked with guilt as she awaits Liz’s return, Laura begins a letter to her daughter, hoping to convey “everything I’ve always meant to tell you but never have.”

In her painfully candid confession, Laura shares memories of her own troubled adolescence in rural Louisiana, growing up in an intensely conservative household. She recounts her relationship with a boy she loved despite her parents’ disapproval, the fateful events that led to her being sent away to a strict Catholic boarding school, the personal tragedy brought upon her by the Vietnam War, and, finally, the meaning of the enigmatic tattoo below her right hip.

Absorbing and affirming, George Bishop’s magnificent debut brilliantly captures a sense of time and place with a distinct and inviting voice. Letter to My Daughter is a heartwrenching novel of mothers, daughters, and the lessons we all learn when we come of age.

Read an Excerpt from Letter to My Daughter!
Chapter One

March 22, 2004

Baton Rouge

Dear Elizabeth,

How to begin this? It’s early morning and I’m sitting here wondering where you are, hoping you’re all right. I haven’t slept since you left. Your father says there’s no sense in phoning the police yet; you’re probably just blowing off steam, and you’ll be back as soon as you run out of money or the car runs out of gas, whichever comes first. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, he says. What with the way you spoke to me last night, it would take more forbearance than anyone’s capable of not to react the way I did, and besides, it wasn’t even that much of a slap.

Still, I blame myself. I keep seeing the look on your face as you brought your hand up to your cheek—the shock, the hurt, then the cold stare that bordered on hatred. When I heard the back door close in the middle of the night, I thought to myself, Well. There she goes. But it was only when I was standing on the driveway in my nightgown watching the taillights of my car disappear down the street that I understood just how bad this has become.

I’ll try not to insult you by saying I know how it feels to be fifteen. (I can see you rolling your eyes.) But believe it or not, I was your age once, and I had the same ugly fights with my parents. And I promised myself that if I ever had a daughter, I would be a better parent to her than mine were to me. My daughter, I told myself, would never have to endure the same inept upbringing that I did. I would be the perfect mother: patient and understanding, kind and sensible. I would listen to all my girl’s problems, help her when she needed it, and together we would build a bridge of trust that would carry us both into old age. Our relationship—it seemed so simple then—would be marked by love, not war.

Well. Things don’t always turn out the way we want them to, do they? Sometimes when I’m yelling at you for coming in late, or criticizing your choice of friends, or your taste in clothing, or your apparent indifference to anything having to do with family or school or future, I hear my mother’s voice coming out of my mouth. My mother’s very words, even. In spite of all my best intentions, I find myself becoming her. And you, of course, become me, reacting the same way I reacted when I was your age, revisiting all the same hurts that I suffered, and so completing one great big vicious circle of ineptitude.

I want to stop this. I’ve thought and thought, and I’m not sure how to go about it, except maybe to make it a rule to do everything that my mother didn’t do and not to do everything that she did—a crude way to right the wrongs, no doubt, and not altogether fair to my mother, who on occasion could be a decent person.

But one thing I’ve realized that my mother never did—and this was perhaps her greatest failing as a parent—the one thing she never did was to give me any good honest advice about growing up. Oh, she gave me plenty of rules, to be sure. She was a fountain of rules: sit up straight, keep your legs together, don’t run, don’t shout, don’t frown, don’t wear too much makeup or boys will think you’re a tramp. But she never told me what I really wanted to know: How does a girl grow up? How does a girl make it through that miserable age called adolescence and finally get to become a woman?

This was something I thought I might be able to help you with. I always pictured us sitting down together and having a talk, mother to daughter. You’d take your earphones out, I’d turn off the TV. Your father would be out running errands and so we’d have the whole afternoon to ourselves. In this talk, I would begin by telling you, as straightforwardly as I could, the story of my own adolescence. My intention would be not to shock or embarrass you, but to try and show you we’re not all that different, you and I. I do know what it’s like to be your age: I was there once, after all. I lived through it. And hearing the mistakes I made, you might learn from them and not have to repeat them. You could be spared my scars, in other words, so that the life you grow up in might be better than the one I had. Today, I thought, would be a good time for us to have this talk, your fifteenth birthday.

As nice as it sounds, that probably isn’t going to happen, is it? I think I made sure of that last night when I slapped you and drove you from our home. I could hardly blame you now if you don’t want to listen to me. It’ll take more than apologies for you to begin to trust me again.

So what I’ve decided to do is that while I’m sitting here waiting for you to return, I’ll write down in a letter everything I’ve always meant to tell you but never have. Maybe a letter is a poor substitute for the talk I always wanted us to have. But it’s a start at least, and I hope you’ll find it in yourself, if not today then sometime in the future, to accept it in the same spirit that I write it. Think of it as my birthday present to you—something that my mother never told me, but that I’ll endeavor now with all my heart to tell you: the truth about how a girl grows up. The truth about life.

I’m on my third cup of coffee now and there’s still no sign of you. Your dad’s out back mowing the grass like nothing ever happened. I’m not going to get all panicky, not yet. It’s still early, and I intend to keep my mind from imagining the worst. But I do hope you’ll be back in time to spend at least some of your birthday with us. I do hope you’re okay, Liz.

Read Reviews of Letter to My Daughter!

“Letter to My Daughter is a first novel of immense power. It makes George Bishop a novelist to keep your eye on. As a father of five daughters, reading the book made me wish I’d written a letter to my own girls, describing my own failures and dilemmas as an American teenager.” —Pat Conroy, bestselling author of South of Broad

"Sometimes it is the simplest book that make the most impact...I think that this is a timeless classic that covers every struggle that mothers and daughters seem to encounter, no matter which era it occurs." - Bookhounds

George Bishop holds an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he won the department’s Award of Excellence for a collection of stories. He has spent most of the past decade living and teaching overseas in Slovakia, Turkey, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, India, and Japan. He now lives in New Orleans.

Find out more about George and this book at the author's website.

Follow George Bishop's virtual book tour every weekday in March by visiting!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Author Spotlight: Lindon King and The Wounds Have Healed...The Scars Are Bleeding!

“The Wounds Have Healed…The Scars Are Bleeding”! is an insightful work of non-fiction from author Lindon J. King. This work is designed to provoke thought as well as educate the reader about the aftermath of slavery in America and the West Indies. Set out as a tribute to the forefathers who had been able to survive the brutal Middle Passage only to be sold as slaves in America and the West Indies. Slavery not only physically affected the lives of those who were captured but also mentally affected them for generations to come.

The Wounds Have Healed…The Scars Are Bleeding! is a compelling work that blends history with social commentary. Given its timely message, Lindon J. King’s work may appeal to a wide variety of readers. Have you struggled with weight, wellness, addictions, relationships or work? This spiritually based book is set up with the idea that when you begin reading it, it will lull you comfortably into motivation and creating changes “now”. Essentially, when you open the book you are on a journey and as you read you have opportunities to “drive” or apply these ideas into your life. The book is set up as a no-excuses approach; if you say you believe in scripture you can’t pick and choose when to apply scripture to your life; it’s immediate connection which also, helps take immediate action. You may be comfortably motivated but it may bring upheaval and some hard truth to swallow, so be prepared for no-excuses scripture to change your life.

Lindon J. King was born in Jamaica and is a former student of Fair Prospect Primary and Fair Prospect Junior High schools. Lindon is a graduate of Prospect College and in 1992 he migrated to Toronto Canada where he did further studies at Ryerson University.

Lindon and his beautiful wife Lorna and their adorable kids Loralin, Lindon Jr. and Lornella reside in Toronto, Canada. Lindon is a proud father of four and loves The Lord. They are of the Apostolic Faith and are active members of their local church.

Lindon is currently employed as a Financial Services Manager and is also pursuing further studies in the field of commercial aviation. He is working on his next book titled, What’s In Your Barn? This book is expected to be in bookstores in the fall of 2010.

You can read a guest post from the author at Review from Here.

Lindon King’s THE WOUNDS HAVE HEALED…THE SCARS ARE BLEEDING! virtual book tour will officially begin on March 1 and end on April 30. You can visit Lindon’s blog stops at during the months of March and April to find out more about this great book and talented author!

Monday, March 8, 2010

DVD Review: Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel

When I first watched this show on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) it was titled Anne of Avonlea, which is the title of the second Anne book by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The movie actually encompasses three of Montgomery's books: Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, and Anne of Windy Poplars. This second Sullivan Entertainment production began Sullivan's departure from the books' storylines, whereas the first movie followed the book closely. In this instance, it worked well, as Sullivan's adaptation allowed for fewer new characters introduced, a romantic conflict for Anne, and the perfect motivation for Anne to return to Green Gables.

This DVD is part of the Anne 3-disc set my husband purchased as a gift for me one Christmas.

The Sequel picks up quickly after the first movie ends. The opening finds Gilbert Blythe (Jonathan Crombie) riding his bike all the way from Caramody to Avonlea to tell Anne (Megan Follows) that her kindred spirit, Diana Barry (Schuyler Grant) is engaged to marry Fred Wright, played by Bruce McCullough.

Anne is upset to find that things are changing and her friends are beginning to think of marriage while she is still dreaming away of her ideal suitor.

Anne accepts a teaching position at a private ladies college that is overrun with the rich Pringle family, who owns most of Kingsport. They don't like outsiders and they certainly don't plan to make Anne's life at Kingsport Ladies College easy. Neither does Katherine Brook (Rosemary Dunsmore) the sour principal at the college.

A chance meeting with Gilbert Blythe, who is now a medical student in Halifax, leads Anne to rethink her goals; and after returning to Green Gables, Anne discovers what is truly important.

I always enjoyed this installment of the Anne series from Sullivan Entertainment. While it came away from the books, I felt that Sullivan's version was the better way to bring this portion of Anne's life to the screen. There would have been too many new characters if they followed the books, and we would have missed the wonderful relationship that developed between Anne and Morgan Harris (Frank Converse) and Anne and Mrs. Harris, Morgan's mother, played by Dame Wendy Hiller. Mrs. Harris is my favorite character.

Several characters from the first movie had parts in this one; to name a few: Marilla Cuthbert (Colleen Dewhurst), Rachel Lynde (Patricia Hamilton), and Muriel Stacey (Marilyn Lightstone), who was one of Anne's teachers at the Avonlea school, and who encouraged her to take the entrance exam to Queens Academy, where she tied with Gilbert Blythe for first place.

My only disappointment with the production was that they linked Gilbert romantically to Christine Stuart (Sheila Harcourt), which was hinted at in the books, but turned out to be nothing more than rumors.

If your family enjoyed Anne of Green Gables, then they will certainly enjoy Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel.

Director: Kevin Sullivan
Writers: Lucy Maud Montgomery (novels: Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars)
Kevin Sullivan (writer)
Rated: G
Runtime: 230 min
Region: Region 1
SRP: $24.99

Saturday, March 6, 2010

DVD Review: Anne of Green Gables

If it were not for Sullivan Entertainment, I may never have discovered my love for Lucy Maud Montgomery's books.

In this Canadian production, a young orphan girl named Anne Shirley is mistakenly sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert on Prince Edward Island. Matthew, a bachelor, who lives with his spinister sister, Marilla, had sent word that they wished to adopt a boy to help the elderly Matthew with the farm work at Green Gables.

This "lucky" mistake changes all of them, and anyone else who comes in contact with the spirited and imaginative Anne Shirley.

Around my eleventh birthday, my sisters bought me a three-book set that included Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island. I read a bit of the first book before tucking them away, bored with the story of Anne. Years later, I saw Anne of Green Gables, the Sullivan Entertainment production starring Megan Follows as Anne, on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). I instantly fell in love with Anne and all her adventures, which inspired me to pick up the books again. From then on I was hooked. I read through the first three books of the Anne series quickly, and purchased the remaining five books and read through them. I still read them when I have time.

My husband purchased the trilogy: Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel, and Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story as a Christmas gift a few years ago. I have decided to review them separately, as they can be purchased separately, and I have different thoughts on each movie.

The first Anne production will always be my favorite. Sullivan Entertainment was careful to stick closer to the books with Anne of Green Gables than with future installments of this series.

Montgomery created a sympathetic character in Anne, and Megan Follows did an excellent job of portraying the headstrong, imaginative orphan who found more than her share of trouble. The late Colleen Dewhurst played Marilla Cuthbert to perfection. She and the late Richard Farnsworth, who played Matthew, were so good at what they did that I couldn't read Anne of Green Gables without picturing them in the book. Dewhurst captured Marilla's gruff exterior that hid a warm hearted woman. Farnsworth brought out the shy warmth that is definitely Matthew.

The viewer is treated to watching Anne grow up in this film: the thrill of learning she will be allowed to stay at Green Gables, meeting her first kindred spirit in town, Diana Barry (Schuyler Grant), battling with the town gossip, Rachel Lynde (Patricia Hamilton), sticking up for herself to Josie Pye (Miranda de Pencier), and arguing with Gilbert Blythe (Jonathan Crombie), her academic rival. And as a matured Anne tells Marilla on the day of the concert benefit, "No matter where I go or what I do, I'll always be your Anne, Anne of Green Gables."

A wonderful coming of age film, Anne of Green Gables will capture your hearts and leave you begging for more of Anne Shirley.

Director: Kevin Sullivan
Writers: Lucy Maud Montgomery (novel)
Kevin Sullivan (writer), Joe Wiesenfeld (writer)
Rated: G
Runtime: 199 min
Region: Region 1
SRP: $24.99

Friday, March 5, 2010

Author Spotlight: F.M. Meredith and An Axe to Grind

Detective Doug Milligan and his partner question suspects in the murder of a stalker including the stalker’s target, her boyfriend, father and brother, as well as the stalker’s step-father. The investigation leaves little time for Doug to see his fiancée and fellow officer, Stacey Wilbur.

Stacey handles a molestation case which involves the son of a friend. She and her mother talk wedding plans, though all must wait until Doug’s renter, Officer Gordon Butler finds another place to live.

When Doug disappears while tailing a suspect, Stacey sets out to find him, hoping she can reach him time.

Read an Excerpt from An Axe to Grind!

Chapter 1

Sergeant Abel Navarro fought to keep from gagging. It wasn’t only from the smell, though that was bad enough.

“Somebody really did a job on the poor slob.” Officer Gordon Butler spoke from the open front door.

“You could say that.” Abel shook his head, had to be the understatement of all time. His wife, Maria, would have a fit if she knew he was in a room with this much spilled blood without any protective gear on. As a nurse, she’d lectured him many times about how airborne droplets of blood could contain the HIV virus along with other terrible diseases. He’d have to take his chances. Until the detectives arrived, there wasn’t anything he could do except make sure no one messed with the crime scene.

“You didn’t touch anything, did you, Butler?”

“Nope. Only poked my head in the door. It was obvious from here the guy was dead.”

Gordon was the newest and youngest officer on the Rocky Bluff P.D. Mostly because of his gung-ho attitude, he had a record of mishaps. He’d calmed down a bit, and finally earned the respect of most of his fellow officers.

There wasn’t any need for medical help, though the EMT’s would arrive soon. The victim’s body lay sprawled in a pool of blood that had emptied from the neck cavity. The head was missing. Abel couldn’t spot it from where he stood about two feet inside the modest living room. Globs of blood and rivulets decorated the plain white walls, the beige slip-covered lumpy couch, and light green overstuffed chair. In fact, there didn’t seem to be any surface free from congealing spots of blood.

“What brought you to the scene?” Abel asked.

“Paperboy,” Gordon said. “Poor kid’s pretty shook up. Got him sitting in my unit now. He was collecting, went to knock on the door and realized it was open. Gave it a shove and this is what he saw. Jumped on his bike and went racing down the street. Flagged me down. I took one peek inside and called it in.” Gordon’s cheeks flamed red. Obviously, what he’d seen had shaken him too.

“I got your call about twenty minutes ago, around seven-thirty and notified Milligan and Marshall. They should be heading for the crime scene about now.” Abel longed to be outside to breathe in the fresh sea air. He would never get used to the pungent coppery smell of freshly spilled blood, the sickening stench of evacuated bowels and urine. Though murder wasn’t unknown in the seaside community of Rocky Bluff, this was one of the most brutal and gory he’d ever seen.

“Anyone around when you drove up?” Abel asked.

“Nope.” Butler nearly filled the open door with his bulk. His arms were crossed over his massive chest, and dark glasses hid his eyes. Bright pink colored his cheeks.

Abel glanced again at the victim, ignoring the gore, he took in the fact that the body was that of a white male. Including the missing head, he would be around five-foot-ten, slim build, no noticeable tattoos on his arms. The body was clothed in a striped polo shirt, khaki pants and sneakers. He had on a watch, but no rings.

Studying the rather plain room, except for the body and the blood, nothing seemed out of place. It was an ordinary living room in an ordinary small rental.

The sound of squeaky brakes announced the arrival of at least one of the detectives. Taking care to walk out exactly as he’d come in, Abel stepped outside.

Fog was beginning to roll in, softening the reality of the old beach neighborhood. Built in the thirties as vacation homes for people who lived in the Los Angeles area, most of the small houses were in various states of disrepair. Abel knew that even though they weren’t kept up, they brought in relatively high rents because of their proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Fortunately, Rocky Bluff hadn’t reached the popularity of its neighboring cities of Ventura and Santa Barbara.

Except for tonight, Abel loved living here. It was a great place for Maria and him to raise their daughter. Maybe no one had been around when Butler arrived, but now people had come out of their houses, peering curiously at the unusual activity, huddling in small groups.

Frank Marshall stepped out of his battered Pontiac that he’d parked behind Gordon Butler’s police unit, just as a red, vintage MG came to a screeching halt across the street. Doug Milligan joined Frank and they both strode across the dry Bermuda grass toward Abel pulling on latex gloves as they came.

“Who’s the kid?” Frank gestured toward the unit. He wore a navy jacket over a plain white T-shirt. He had on a well-worn pair of faded jeans. Abel suspected Frank had been relaxing in front of the TV when he got the call.

Both detectives were taller than Abel–for that matter nearly everyone in the department was taller than Abel. “Paperboy. He discovered the body. Butler says he’s pretty shook up. When you see the body you’ll understand why.”

“I’ll go talk to the boy and let Gordon take him home,” Doug said. Milligan had two children of his own, though they lived in San Diego with their mother and her new husband.

Even though he no longer had a wife to watch after him, his tan sport jacket and slacks were neatly pressed.

Marshall rubbed his bald pate. “Okay, let’s see what we’ve got here.”

Gordon moved out of the doorway. Abel allowed Marshall to enter first.

Marshall halted. “Whoa. What an unholy mess. Do we know the identity of the victim?”

“Nope, haven’t touched a thing,” Abel said, and hoped he didn’t have to.

“Know where the head is?”

“No, but I didn’t look for it either.”

“Butler touch anything?”

“Said not.”

“Good. Did you call the coroner?”

“Did that before I left the station.”

“Start snapping pictures, Navarro. Get the cameras out of my car, and take the scene that way first. Be sure and get some good shots of the blood spatters. Then I want you to video the evidence collecting.” Marshall already had his notebook out and started writing.

Abel knew the detective was methodically putting down everything he could see. By the time Abel returned with the cameras, Marshall had moved across the room. He gestured toward an alcove that served as a dining room. “Killer thought it would make a nice centerpiece, I suppose. Be sure to take a photo of it.”

Placed exactly in the center of a square wooden table, blue eyes stared from the long, pale face of a male, early to mid-thirties with brown hair cut extremely short emphasizing his large ears. Abel photographed the body from every angle, the gory blood spatters, and the head. He tried not to think about what he was recording as he methodically went about the task.

Opened mail, along with the envelopes, lay scattered about the head. It was all addressed to Kenneth Buchelo. While Abel took pictures, Milligan returned from his interview of the paperboy. He stared at the victim while he talked. “Kid’s name is Robert Villard. Eleven. Goes to the same school my kids went. Doesn’t know anything, except who the man is–Kenneth Buchelo.”

“He’s sure that’s who is lying on the floor?” Marshall asked.

“Sure as he can be without seeing his head. Terrible shock to a kid. Butler’s taking him home now.” Doug Milligan touched his upper lip. It hadn’t been too long ago that he’d sported a mustache, but now he was clean-shaven. “I’ve called for extra help, the crowd is getting bigger outside. We need some uniforms to start asking the neighbors what they know about this guy. The Chief’s been notified, and I thought Strickland ought to be here. The media is going to love this one.” Ryan Strickland was the Department’s public relations officer. “What do you think it is, a homosexual murder?”

Murders involving homosexuals tended to be more bizarre; the decapitation had caused Abel to think the same.

“Don’t know,” Marshall said. “Won’t until we’ve gotten a positive ID on the body.”

They really wouldn’t even have a tentative identification until the coroner arrived and checked out the guy’s wallet. According to California law only the coroner could take anything off the body. Though it was also the coroner who made the decision on cause of death, it was pretty obvious what happened to their victim. It was up to the detectives to discover who did it and why.

Hopefully, as they slowly and meticulously gathered the evidence it would become clear who and what had caused Kenneth Buchelo’s death. From Abel’s viewpoint it didn’t look like an easy matter. So far they hadn’t even recovered the weapon.

“Hey, we got a bloody one.” Ryan Strickland, also tall and extremely handsome, strolled into the room but halted immediately when he saw the body. “Oops, guy lost his head.”

“Hasn’t gone far.” Marshall pointed toward the dining alcove.

Strickland edged his way nearer. “Ugh, not too appetizing. Media’s going to love this one. What have you got?”

“Decapitation, no ID as yet. But so far it looks like our victim is a Kenneth Buchelo.”

“Know anything about him?” Strickland asked.

“Not yet.” Marshall continued his methodical walk around the scene. Abel followed closely with the video camera capturing everything Frank was looking at or touching with his gloved fingers.

“Anyone ever heard of this guy before?” Strickland asked.

Though Abel hadn’t recognized the face of the victim, there was something vaguely familiar about the name. Until he could remember though, he wouldn’t say anything.

Eliseo Alvarado, the deputy coroner of Ventura County, popped into the room. He was a wiry, dark-skinned and haired gnome-like fellow. “Hi everybody, what’ve we got here?”

Alvarado put his medical bag down beside the corpse, and opened it. “Where’s the head?”

“In there, smack dab in the middle of the table.” Frank pointed with his thumb.

As the coroner began examining the body, Frank said, “Come on Navarro, let’s take a look in the other rooms.”

Abel followed the detective into the small, neat kitchen, recording everything with the video camera. Though the appliances were old-fashioned, the cabinets were freshly painted, the worn linoleum clean. The bathroom was much the same. Everything neatly in place, the medicine cabinet held the usual assortment of pain relievers, razor and blades, shaving cream, cologne and deodorant.

Frank slid open the drawer beside the sink and lifted out a package of condoms. “Looks like he was sexually active…or at least hopeful.”

The bedroom was more interesting. Though small like the rest of the house, it only contained a neatly-made twin bed, a small bedside table, a battered dresser, a small desk with an open laptop computer and printer, and a folding chair.

Taped and thumbtacked to the walls were at least a hundred photographs, big and small–black-and-white and in color–of one young woman–an Hispanic girl, early twenties, pretty.

Frank paused in front of the display. “H’mmm. Interesting. Notice anything unusual here?”

Abel took the video camera from his eye and squinted at the photos. “Nice looking.” He studied a bit more. “None of the pictures are posed. She’s doing something in each one. Sitting in a restaurant, peering through a window. That one she’s coming out of the library.”

“Obviously she had no idea her picture was being taken.” Frank opened the door to the closet. Inside, an array of ordinary short- and long-sleeved shirts, dark brown, navy and black slacks, along with one navy sports coat and dress slacks hung neatly. Lined up on the floor were three pairs of worn men’s shoes, two black and one brown, and a fairly new pair of name brand sneakers.

On the overhead shelf was a small digital camera. “We’ll take the camera and the computer as evidence, as well as the picture gallery,” Frank said.

He found one other item of interest in the drawer of the bedside table, a journal filled with neat writing. He held it aloft. “Bingo. This should tell us plenty about our headless wonder.”


Read Reviews of Other Books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series!

“No Sanctuary delivers well-developed characters and an intriguing plot with a surprising twist at the end. Congratulations, F.M. Meredith, on another winner. No Sanctuary qualifies as a fast and satisfying read. Loved it!” –Karen Kavanagh, former Co-president of Sisters in Crime-CCC

“Anyone who has the slightest interest in anything to do with police work will love SMELL OF DEATH by F. M. Meredith.” –Radine Trees Nehring,

“Fringe Benefits is a fast, interesting read and I think the police officers in Rocky Bluff are typical of police officers everywhere with the same ambitions and stumbling blocks…” –Patricia Reid

Watch the video trailer for No Sanctury, the previous release in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series!

Follow this tour all month long by visiting

F. M. Meredith who also writes under the name Marilyn Meredith is the author of nearly thirty published novels including the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, An Axe to Grind is the newest from Oak Tree Press. No Sanctuary was a finalist the mystery/suspense category of the Epic best in e-books contest .

She is a member of EPIC, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She was an instructor for Writer’s Digest School for ten years, served as an instructor at the Maui Writer’s Retreat and many other writer’s conferences. For over twenty years she lived in a beach community similar to Rocky Bluff.

You can visit the author online at and her blog at

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Author Spotlight: Sarah Addison Allen, Author of The Girl Who Chased the Moon

In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world…no matter how out of place they feel.

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. For instance, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? Why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life.

Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth and in the hope of bringing back the love she fears she’s lost forever. In Julia, Emily may have found a link to her mother’s past. But why is everyone trying to discourage Emily’s growing relationship with the handsome and mysterious son of Mullaby’s most prominent family? Emily came to Mullaby to get answers, but all she’s found so far are more questions.

Is there really a ghost dancing in her backyard? Can a cake really bring back a lost love?

In this town of lovable misfits, maybe the right answer is the one that just feels…different.

Read an Excerpt from The Girl Who Chased the Moon!

Chapter One

It took a moment for Emily to realize the car had come to a stop. She looked up from her charm bracelet, which she’d been worrying in slow circles around her wrist, and stared out the window. The two giant oaks in the front yard looked like flustered ladies caught mid-curtsy, their starched green leaf-dresses swaying in the wind.

“This is it?” she asked the taxi driver.

“Six Shelby Road. Mullaby. This is it.”

Emily hesitated, then paid him and got out. The air outside was tomato-sweet and hickory-smoked, all at once delicious and strange. It automatically made her touch her tongue to her lips. It was dusk, but the streetlights weren’t on yet. She was taken aback by how quiet everything was. It suddenly made her head feel light. No street sounds. No kids playing. No music or television. There was this sensation of otherworldliness, like she’d traveled some impossible distance.

She looked around the neighborhood while the taxi driver took her two overstuffed duffel bags out of the trunk. The street consisted of large old homes, most of which were showpieces in true old-movie Southern fashion with their elaborate trim work and painted porches.

The driver set her bags on the sidewalk beside her, nodded, then got behind the wheel and drove off.

Emily watched him disappear. She tucked back some hair that had fallen out of her short ponytail, then grabbed the handles of the duffel bags. She dragged them behind her as she followed the walkway from the sidewalk, through the yard and under the canopy of fat trees. It grew dark and cold under the trees, so she picked up her pace. But when she emerged from under the canopy on the other side, she stopped short at the sight before her.

The house looked nothing like the rest of the houses in the neighborhood.

It had probably been an opulent white at one time, but now it was gray, and its Gothic Revival pointed-arch windows were dusty and opaque. It was outrageously flaunting its age, spitting paint chips and old roofing shingles into the yard. There was a large wraparound porch on the first floor, the roof of which served as a balcony for the second floor, and years of crumbling oak leaves were covering both. If not for the single clear path formed by use up the center of the steps, it would have looked like no one lived there.

This was where her mother grew up?

She could feel her arms trembling, which she told herself was from the weight of the bags. She walked up the steps to the porch, dragging the duffel bags and a good many leaves with her. She set the bags down and walked to the door, then knocked once.

No answer.

She tried again.


She tucked her hair back again, then looked behind her as if to find an answer. She turned back and opened the rusty screen door and called into the house, “Hello?” The space sounded hollow.

No answer.

She entered cautiously. No lights were on, but the last sunlight of the day was coughing through the dining room windows, directly to her left. The dining room furniture was dark and rich and ornate, but it seemed incredibly large to her, as if made for a giant. To her right was obviously another room, but there was an accordion door closing off the archway. Straight in front of her was a hallway leading to the kitchen and a wide staircase leading to the second story. She went to the base of the stairs and called up, “Hello?”

At that moment, the accordion door flew open and Emily jumped back. An elderly man with coin-silver hair walked out, ducking under the archway to avoid hitting his head. He was fantastically tall and walked with a rigid gait, his legs like stilts. He seemed badly constructed, like a skyscraper made of soft wood instead of concrete. He looked like he could splinter at any moment.

“You’re finally here. I was getting worried.” His fluid Southern voice was what she remembered from their first and only phone conversation a week ago, but he was nothing like she expected.

She craned her neck back to look up at him. “Vance Shelby?”

He nodded. He seemed afraid of her. It flustered her that someone this tall would be afraid of anything, and she suddenly found herself monitoring her movements, not wanting to do anything to startle him.

She slowly held out her hand. “Hi, I’m Emily.”

He smiled. Then his smile turned into a laugh, which was an ashy roar, like a large fire. Her hand completely disappeared in his when he shook it. “I know who you are, child. You look just like your mother when she was your age.” His smile faded as quickly as it had appeared. He dropped his hand, then looked around awkwardly. “Where are your suitcases?”

“I left them on the porch.”

There was a short silence. Neither of them had known the other existed until recently. How could they have run out of things to say already? There was so much she wanted to know. “Well,” he finally said, “you can do what you want upstairs—it’s all yours. I can’t get up there anymore. Arthritis in my hips and knees. This is my room now.” He pointed to the accordion door. “You can choose any room you want, but your mother’s old room was the last one on the right. Tell me what the wallpaper looks like when you walk in. I’d like to know.”

“Thank you. I will,” she said as he turned and walked away from her, toward the kitchen, his steps loud in his wondrously large shoes.

Emily watched him go, confused. That was it?

She went to the porch and dragged her bags in. Upstairs, she found a long hallway that smelled woolly and tight. There were six doors. She walked down the hall, the scraping of her duffel bags magnified in the hardwood silence.

Once she reached the last door on the right, she dropped her duffel bags and reached to the inside wall for the light switch. The first thing she noticed when the light popped on was that the wallpaper had rows and rows of tiny lilacs on it, like scratch-and-sniff paper, and the room actually smelled a little like lilacs. There was a four-poster bed against the wall, the torn, gauzy remnants of what had once been a canopy now hanging off the posts like maypoles.

There was a white trunk at the foot of the bed. The name Dulcie, Emily’s mother’s name, was carved in it in swirly letters. As she walked by it, she ran her hand over the top of the trunk and her fingertips came away with puffs of dust. Underneath the age, like looking though a layer of ice, there was a distinct impression of privilege to this room.

It made no sense. This room looked nothing like her mother.

She opened the set of French doors and stepped out onto the balcony, crunching into dried oak leaves that were ankle-deep. Everything had felt so precarious since her mother’s death, like she was walking on a bridge made of paper. When she’d left Boston, it had been with a sense of hope, like coming here was going to make everything okay. She’d actually been comforted by the thought of falling back into a cradle of her mother’s youth, of bonding with the grandfather she hadn’t known she had.

Instead, the lonely strangeness of this place mocked her.

This didn’t feel like home.

She reached to touch her charm bracelet for comfort, but felt only bare skin. She lifted her wrist, startled.

The bracelet was gone.

She looked down, then around. She frantically kicked the leaves on the balcony, trying to find it. She rushed back into the room and dragged her bags in, thinking maybe the bracelet had caught on one of them and slipped inside. She tossed her clothes out of them and accidentally dropped her laptop, which she’d wrapped in her white winter coat.

But it wasn’t anywhere. She ran out of the room and down the stairs, then she banged out of the front door. It was so dark under the canopy of trees now that she had to slow down until the light from the streetlights penetrated, then she ran to the sidewalk.

After ten minutes of searching, she realized that either she had dropped it on the sidewalk and someone had already taken it, or it had fallen out in the cab when she was toying with it and it was now on its way back to Raleigh—where the cab had picked her up at the bus station.

The bracelet had belonged to her mother. Dulcie had loved it—loved the crescent moon charm in particular. That charm had been worn thin by the many times Dulcie had rubbed it while in one of her faraway moods.

Emily walked slowly back into the house. She couldn’t believe she’d lost it.

She heard what sounded like a clothes dryer door slam, then her grandfather came out of the kitchen. “Lilacs,” she said when he met her in the foyer, where she had stopped and waited for him to notice her so she wouldn’t startle him. How odd that he was the giant, yet she was the one who felt out of place.

He gave her a cautious look, like she was out to trick him. “Lilacs?”

“You asked what the wallpaper was in Mom’s old room. It’s lilacs.”

“Ah. It was always flowers, usually roses, when she was a little girl. It changed a lot as she got older. I remember once it was lightning bolts on a tar-black background. And then another time it was this scaly blue color, like a dragon’s belly. She hated that one, but couldn’t seem to change it.”

That made Emily smile. “That doesn’t sound like her at all. I remember once . . .” She stopped when Vance looked away. He didn’t want to know. The last time he saw his daughter was twenty years ago. Wasn’t he even curious? Stung, Emily turned away from him. “I guess I’ll go to bed now.”

“Are you hungry?” he asked as he followed her at a distance. “I went to the grocery store this morning. I bought some teenager food.”

She reached the first step on the staircase and turned, which made him step back suddenly. “Thank you. But I really am tired.”

He nodded. “All right. Tomorrow, maybe.”

She went back to the bedroom and fell onto the bed. Mustiness exploded from the mattress. She stared at the ceiling. Moths had come in, attracted to the light, and they were hopping around the cobwebby chandelier. Her mother had grown up with a chandelier in her bedroom? This from the same woman who would lecture Emily if she left a light on in a room she wasn’t using.

She reached over and pulled some of her clothes from the floor and buried her face in them. They smelled familiar, like her mother’s incense. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying not to cry. It was too early to say this was a bad decision. And even if it was, there was nothing she could do about it. She could survive a year here, surely.

She heard the wind skittering dried leaves around the balcony, something she realized sounded remarkably like someone walking around out there. She moved the clothes from her face and turned her head to look out the open balcony doors.

The light from the bedroom illuminated the closest treetops in the backyard, but their limbs weren’t swaying. She sat up and crawled off the bed. Once outside, she looked around carefully. “Is anyone here?” she called, not knowing what she would do if someone actually answered.

Something suddenly caught her eye. She quickly stepped to the balustrade. She thought she saw something in the woodline beyond the gazebo in the overgrown backyard.

There! There it was again. It was a bright white light—a quick, zippy flash—darting between the trees. Gradually, the light faded, moving back into the darkness of the woods until it disappeared completely.

Welcome to Mullaby, North Carolina, she thought. Home of ghost lights, giants, and jewelry thieves.

She turned to go back in and froze.

There, on the old metal patio table, sitting on top of a layer of dried leaves, was her mother’s charm bracelet.

Where it hadn’t been just minutes ago.

Read Reviews of Sarah's Novels!

"Readers will quickly and instantly fall in love with the characters in The Girl Who Chased the Moon. The plot and storyline are delightful, characterization perfectly developed and dialog wonderfully portrayed in southern style." - Cafe of Dreams

(For Garden Spells)

“Spellbindingly charming, Allen’s impressively accomplished debut novel will bewitch fans of Alice Hoffman and Laura Esquivel, as her entrancing brand of magic realism nimbly blends the evanescent desires of hopeless romantics with the inherent wariness of those who have been hurt once too often.” –Booklist (Starred review)

“In a lifetime of reading, there are a few novels that are especially precious and unforgettable…This first novel by Sarah Addison Allen is to be added to that short list.” –Stephen Richmond, Newton, MA

(For The Sugar Queen)

“A wonderful, highly-recommended book! I truly wish the author could write faster, as it was over far too soon.” –S. Cave, Puyallup, WA

“…a great story, a fast read…” –Busy Bookworm Reviews

Sarah Addison Allen is the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen. She was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, where she is currently at work on her next novel. You can visit Sarah Addison Allen’s website at

You can follow Sarah's virtual book tour all month long by visiting