Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thursday Books: Sweet Thursday (Penguin Classics) by John Steinbeck

In Monterey, on the California coast, Sweet Thursday is what they call the day after Lousy Wednesday, which is one of those days that are just naturally bad. Returning to the scene of Cannery Row--the weedy lots and junk heaps and flophouses of Monterey, John Steinbeck once more brings to life the denizens of a netherworld of laughter and tears-from Fauna, new headmistress of the local brothel, to Hazel, a bum whose mother must have wanted a daughter.

Reading level: Ages 18 and up
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (July 29, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0143039474
ISBN-13: 978-0143039471

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

WSJ Wednesday - Changes in Higher Education

I found a fascinating article in the Friday, January 25, 2013 edition of The Wall Street Journal. My one big regret is never getting my college degree. Though a book I read on the current job market said experience trumps college degrees any day (unless you're talking Ivy League), during my job search, I've discovered even clerical and administrative jobs have a college degree listed as a preference or requirement.

According to "College Degree, No Class Time Required" by Caroline Porter, the University of  Wisconsin is offering a Bachelor's to students who take online competency tests about what they know. Like the man featured in Porter's article, I have several credits toward my degree. But as my family and responsibilities grew, time to dedicate to my education dwindled. After more than 20 years in business, it wouldn't surprise me if I could pass some of these competency tests and make obtaining my degree easier, and perhaps, cheaper.

The University of Wisconsin plans to launch the program this fall. Prices haven't been set for their Flexible Option program, but university officials say it should be "significantly less expensive." The goal of the program is to strengthen the state's workforce; it's not to dumb down education and just make it easy to get your degree.

If a program like this came to Massachusetts, I would sign up right away. I'm tired of not having my degree. I don't want it holding me back. It would even be helpful to me in my writing, so there's really no reason not to do it, unless it was cost prohibitive, which doesn't seem to be the case.

What do you think of this idea? Would you try to earn your degree this way if it was available in your state?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Interview with Delia Latham, Author of Jewels for the Kingdom (Heart's Haven)

As you've probably noticed, I've been featuring books from the Heart's Haven series released by White Rose Publishing. Today, one of the authors, shares how this series came into being, what these books are about, and how you can find out more about the authors.

Born and raised in Weedpatch, California, Delia Latham moved to Oklahoma in '08, making her a self-proclaimed California Okie. She loves to read and write in her country home, and gets a kick out of watching her husband play Farmer John. She's a Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend, but especially loves being a princess daughter to the King of Kings. She loves Dr. Pepper and hearing from her readers. Contact her through her website (, blog, or Facebook author page.

Delia writes inspirational romance and women's fiction, and is currently contracted through White Rose Publishing and Vinspire Publishing.

Who came up with the idea of the Heart’s Haven series?

I did. I’ve always loved the Christmas collections Barbour publishes each year, and I wanted White Rose to do something similar, without copying their format. So I dreamed up the foundation for Heart’s Haven—the setting, the concept of an old guy who sees and speaks with angels, the legend of love that surrounds the property. Then I asked God which three Pelican Book Group authors I should try to get on board with me, and…well, here we are, with our Valentine’s Day collection.

Can you briefly tell us what each book is about?

Sure. How about I just give you the back cover blurbs from each book?

Jewels for the Kingdom (Heart’s Haven, Book 1)
by Delia Latham

Pia Peretti’s past could destroy her future. Thanks to her pre-Christian lifestyle, she can’t marry a believer, and she won’t marry a non-believer. Minister David Myers wants to help Pia release her guilt and trust that God has forgiven her...but the young minister is working through his own trial of faith.

After a failed counseling session with a wounded soul, David's confidence is shaken. He accepts a new pastorate, and moves to Angel Falls to find a haven for his wounded heart.

Is it possible these two hurting hearts are meant to mend each other’s brokenness with some divine intervention?

Operation Breathless (Heart’s Haven, Book 2)
by Marianne Evans

Psychologist Susanna Daniels helps troubled teens find their footing and their faith, but in the face of erroneous accusations, she's lost hope, wondering if her work at Wellsprings of Grace even makes a difference any more.

Detroit police officer Gabe Peretti has returned home to Angel Falls, Texas, burned out by the big city, his faith stretched to the breaking point by the badlands he's witnessed and tried so hard to change. He craves fresh perspective, and wisdom enough to discern God's will.

A sparkling kiss and an embattled young lady careening down the wrong path bring Susanna and Gabe together, sweeping them into a set of circumstances that will require enough faith to shine bright, and enough love to leave them both forever changed, and positively breathless.

Leap of Faith (Heart’s Haven, Book 3)
by Tanya Stowe

Zack Manning is a computer software genius and he’s just been offered a six-figure position in Manhattan. But for some reason, Zack can’t bring himself to accept the offer. Perhaps it has something to do with his free-spirited neighbor, Zoe Wyndham. Zack thinks Zoe’s pretty, but she’s far too kooky for him. Still, he takes a second look when she arrives at his front door with a message about his job.

Zoe’s been attracted to Zack for a while, but he’s not her type. He's business-minded, serious, successful—certainly not the type to go into the mission field, and that's her plan. She would just be a kink in his well-ordered life. So when Zack finally looks her way, Zoe doesn’t expect much, but he's constantly on her mind.

Then there's his recent change of heart where she's concerned. Zoe’s convinced the resident angels at Heart’s Haven have something to do with it, and while she doesn't understand, she may just have to take a leap of faith.

Dance with Me (Heart’s Haven, Book 4)
by Mary Manners

Scorned by an ex-fiance who dumped her on their wedding day, Kaci James vows to never fall in love again. She's content to teach English at Angel Falls High School and moonlights at the Angel Falls Trumpet as an advisor for a romance column—Love's Lesson.

Plagued by the senseless death of a teen on his watch, patrolman Ryne Calvert feels he's failed in the line of duty—and as a man. His new job as the resource officer at Angel Falls High will give him a chance to redeem himself—and to be closer to the elusive and lovely Kaci. Though he longs for more than friendship, Kaci thwarts his advances. She's hiding her heart from him, but why?

When Ryne, on a dare, seeks advice from Love's Lessons, he and Kaci begin the dance of romance. But when Kaci's secret is revealed, will the music end—forever?

What was the inspiration for your novella?

Jewels for the Kingdom was inspired by an online friend who owns and operates a Christian jewelry business, The Master’ Jewels. I loved her references to “Spirit-filled jewelry” and “adorning the bride.” She told me about giving her pieces to certain people as the Spirit gave her little nudges and signs, and I was absolutely fascinated by the whole thing. With her permission, I built my story around that concept.

How much interaction took place among the authors during the writing of the stories?

None of us had ever met when we started the project, other than through our Pelican Book Group author loop. But I can’t help feeling Heart’s Haven was a God-thing from the very beginning. We worked together very closely, making sure details coincided and that there were no glaring contradictions from one book to the next. In the process, we formed a very special bond. A couple of us have since had the opportunity to meet face to face. Mary Manners and Marianne Evans met at a conference where they taught a workshop together. And I was hugely blessed by the opportunity to meet Tanya Stowe when both of us happened to be in California at the same time during 2012. I feel as if I gained three sisters through Heart’s Haven.

What have you been doing individually and as a team to market these books?

We have a Heart’s Haven Facebook page, where we interact with readers and launch each book as it releases. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the reception Heart’s Haven has received, and we’re so pleased that readers seem to love it! Then, of course, each of us does our own thing as far as guest blogging, interviews, etc. We’ve done character interviews, which we all really enjoyed. And we created a fictional news reporter from the fictional newspaper, The Angel Falls Trumpet. Belle Eyre’s articles have shown up on several blogs, talking about Heart’s Haven and the angelic activity there. It’s been great fun!

Where can readers find out more?

Each of our websites (listed below) include information about Heart’s Haven, and all the books are listed on our publisher’s website, Then, of course, there’s our Heart’s Haven Facebook page, where all four authors and their heroines hang out and chat with readers. All the books are available on Kindle, Nook, and other e-book formats.

And since you’ve been such a wonderful hostess, I will let you in on a little secret. Other Heart’s Haven books are contracted and will be released over the next couple of years. So the fun isn’t ending with this first collection. We’re all very excited about that.

Here are links to all Heart’s Haven author websites:

Delia Latham—
Tanya Stowe—
Marianne Evans—
Mary Manners—

A Christmas Kindness Giveaway Winner

Congratulations goes out to Dorothy T. She won a copy of A Christmas Kindness by C. C. Gevry. Thanks to all who participated. Look for a new giveaway coming on Friday.

Dark Days Ahead at Downton Abbey

I've watched Sunday night's episode of Downton Abbey three times and I still can't make it through without crying. Tragedy has befallen the Crawleys, and I daresay, it will be a long healing process for the entire household--upstairs and downstairs.

Without giving too much away, I must admit the direction they are taking Lord Grantham's character isn't appealing to me. His pig-headed ways have endangered the future of Downton and played a role in the most recent tragedy. He is trying to hold onto a world that is slowing slipping away, but he won't admit it. He is the master of the house and he expects the women to obey him and support his decisions.

Now, that's not a problem for Lady Mary. Playing a typical oldest daughter to perfection, her father has no faults in her eyes. She is entirely against her husband Matthew's interference in running the estate, despite the fact that she encouraged him to become familiar with the business and his money is what saved their home. When she overhears him talking to the lawyer about the mismanagement he has discovered, she takes him to task. Lady Mary, like her father, wishes to maintain the traditions and hierarchy that are becoming a thing of the past. I fear, like her father, she is going to have a hard time adjusting to a post-World War I world.

Edith gets some good news, but her father still thinks he knows better than she does. And unknowingly, Lord Grantham pokes a stake in Matthew's tender heart when he tells him he'll understand when he's a father, not realizing Matthew desperately wants to have children and is afraid the injuries he sustained in the war might have affected his fertility.

Finally, we see a total clashing of the social classes as Dr. Clarkson and Sir Philip Tapsell, the obstetrician hired by Lord Grantham, argue over what is best for Lady Sybil during childbirth. One can understand why Lord Grantham is unsure of Dr. Clarkson based upon past experiences, but how he could ignore the common sense pleadings of his wife Cora when she says that Dr. Clarkson has known Sybil all her life? And that Sir Philip, in the end, isn't even willing to admit he made a mistake is unconscionable.

Rougher days are ahead for the people of Downton Abbey. Tom wants his daughter christened as a Catholic, which will cause more turbulence in the house. The only bright spot is that Bates and Anna might have finally found a way to free him.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Catch Me Tonight on Talk Radio Network - VBTs

TODAY on TALK RADIO NETWORK! Special Guest, Cheryl C. Malandrinos, has been coordinating virtual book tours since 2007. In “Coordinating A Virtual Book Tour,” she shares her years of experience in how to reach out to bloggers to host your tour, provides ideas for guest posts (300-500 word articles), teaches how to write a press release, shares tips on how to stay organized and ways to promote your virtual book tour.

Cheryl C. Malandrinos has been coordinating virtual book tours through Pump Up Your Book since September 2007. She is a freelance writer, children’s author and editor. A member of the SCBWI, she is also a book reviewer and blogger.

To listen TODAY at 6:30est – click:

You've Got Mail Monday

Last week was a great one. I typed "The End" on my first picture book of the year. I cleaned up my Facebook account, unliking pages that I don't even visit that were clogging up my feed. And I got some nifty stuff in the mail.

Two copies of The Moses Quilt by Kathi Macias arrived. This is the first book in her new series. I'll be giving away a copy of this book here next month during her virtual book tour. I saw the trailer for this series, and I can't wait for the Christmas one to come out. The Doctor's Christmas Quilt depicts the life of America's first woman doctor, Elizabeth Blackwell. It is a contemporary story about a woman doctor and it will be interesting to see how Blackwell fits into the storyline.

I also received two books from the Harlequin Book Club. I'm not a huge romance reader, though I do enjoy them. Romantic suspense and inspirational romance are my most preferred genres, but expanding beyond that is fine too. The two free books that arrived were Better Than Chocolate by Sheila Roberts and Already Home by Susan Mallery. I'm familiar with Roberts's work, having reviewed two of her books. Not sure when I'll get a chance to read these, but I'll see how I like getting books on a regular basis. There's no commitment, so I can cancel anytime.

The Cableyoyo™ arrived. It's a product I'm reviewing here. It's supposed to keep your wires looking neat. Finally, my new jeans from Old Navy showed up. Thank God! I have been wearing the same two pairs of jeans for about a year now. I rarely spend money on myself, but I'm at the point where if I don't get some new clothes, I'll scream. These are great jeans. Very comfortable and they fit perfect.

That's it from my neck of the woods. Hope you have a great week.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Interview with Kaci James from Dance With Me by Mary Manners (Heart's Haven)

Scorned by an ex-fiance who dumped her on their wedding day, Kaci James vows to never fall in love again. She's content to teach English at Angel Falls High School and moonlights at the Angel Falls Trumpet as an advisor for a romance column--Love's Lessons.

Plagued by the senseless death of a teen on his watch, patrolman Ryne Calvert feels he's failed in the line of duty--and as a man. His new job as the resource officer at Angel Falls High will give him a chance to redeem himself--and to be closer to the elusive and lovely Kaci. Though he longs for more than friendship, Kaci thwarts his advances. She's hiding her heart from him, but why?

When Ryne, on a dare, seeks advice from Love's Lessons, he and Kaci begin the dance of romance. But when Kaci's secret is revealed, will the music end--forever?

Character Interview with Kaci James

Hello, I’m here today talking with the delightful Kaci James from Dance With Me, by Mary Manners:

Hi, Kaci! It’s so nice to have you here today! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sure. I teach English at Angel Falls High, where my friend and neighbor here at Heart’s Haven, Ryne Calvert, has just become the resource officer.

You're just friends?

Well, maybe we’re just a bit more than friends. I guess you could say we’re still trying to put together the pieces to THAT particular puzzle! I’m just not sure he’d approve of my secret, given the circumstances.

Your secret?

Yes. You see, I moonlight as an advice columnist for the Angel Falls Trumpet. And let’s just say that Ryne’s written in for some advice. Oh, I didn’t know it was him when the letters began to arrive—not at first, at least. But now…

When do you plan to spill the beans?

That’s a tough one. Soon, very soon…

Hope it turns out well. In the meantime, may we have a glimpse into Dance With Me?

Sure. Here you go. Happy Reading!

Kaci settled in at the computer desk and yawned. It was late, and she should be thinking about hitting the sack—not composing advice for the Love’s Lessons column. Yet, she knew people depended on her, and she wouldn’t dream of letting the readers down.

That was a close call…leaving the letters out where Ryne could easily see them. What was I thinking, being so careless?

Had he noticed them? Kaci shook her head. If he had, he would have asked about them. So she was pretty sure he hadn’t. But he was a detective, and detectives were trained to notice things.

No…no way.

She reached for the first envelope. Again, she thought of how familiar the print looked, and was sure she’d seen it before. She tore open the envelope.

Dear Love’s Lessons,
How do you tell someone you love her when you’re not sure she wants to be loved? And how do you make her see that she’s worthy of your love, when her heart’s been broken by another guy? So far, your advice has been a big help, so I’ll take any suggestions you have.
Looking for Answers

Kaci pulled off her glasses and sighed as she rubbed the bridge of her nose. This one hit close to home. She set it aside and examined the letters left in the stack. She’d answer them first, and then come back to this later…or in the morning.

But the words tugged at her, and she wondered who Looking for Answers might be. He never used a return address. Kaci picked up the letter again and thought of Ryne. If anyone could make her even consider falling in love again, it was him. He was kind and patient, with a great sense of humor, and he cared about kids as much as she did. And he was easy on the eyes, too.

Kaci booted up her computer and logged into the Love’s Lessons site. Then she began to type.

Mary Manners is an award-winning romance writer who lives in the beautiful foothills of East Tennessee with her husband Tim and the cherished cats they've rescued from local animal shelters...Lucky and Gus.

Mary’s debut novel, Mended Heart, was nominated Best Inspirational Romance 2010, and was finalist for the Bookseller’s Best Award and her follow-up, Tender Mercies, was awarded an outstanding 4 ½ star rating from The Romantic Times Book Reviews and was also a finalist for the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Buried Treasures, her third novel, was named Book of the Year by The Wordsmith Journal. Light the Fire, her fourth novel, took top honors for the 2012 Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Mary was named Author of the Year by Book and Trailer Showcase. She writes romances of all lengths, from short stories to novels—something for everyone.

Learn more about Mary Manners at her website: and at her author pages at and

Free for All Friday: Gary's Gray World Giveaway

When Gary's father is too busy to play, a scary moment at the baseball field brings his dad rushing to the park to rescue him. But instead the two discover that making time for each other is the most important thing in a father and son relationship.

Read an excerpt:

What are your plans for today, Son?” asked Dad, putting on his coat and hat.

“Today’s the annual father and son baseball game.” Gary brightened. “Don’t you remember?”

His father abruptly stopped in his tracks and turned to look at Gary with an apologetic expression on his face.

“I’m sorry, I can’t be there. I’ve got too much work to do at the office. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”

“Sure. That’ll be fine,” said Gary, trying not to sound too disappointed.

Read the reviews:

"This is a lovely book to teach the importance of dad's in the lives of their children. ..Very easy read with a wonderful message."

--4 the Love of Books

"This delightful story touches the heart with its gentle reminder of the importance of family."

--The Children's and Teens' Book Connection

"This cute book can be read aloud or beginning readers can tackle the text with a little encouragement."

--Writing and Other Ways into the Heart

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1972, Ryan J. Cunningham discovered his passion for writing poetry and children’s stories at an early age. Throughout his high school and college years, he took writing courses to enhance his writing abilities. Ryan became a member of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.) He published two inspirational books of poems titled “Angels Near and Far” and “Hearts, Hopes, and Halos.” His poetry and stories have been published in anthologies and magazines. Ryan presently resides in Coos Bay, Oregon where he spends his time hiking the trails, spending quality time with family, and working on his personal web site, ( to share his poems and stories with the world.

Enter using the Rafflecopter form below for your chance to win a FREE copy of this book. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Free for Kindle: Shadows and Secrets by Chautona Havig

No one knows what the cloaked creature is or why it is so terrifying. The villagers of Wynnewood only know that they must stay away from 'the creature' for fear of their physical and spiritual safety.

An unfortunate encounter with a dragon introduces Philip Ward to the creature, and to his surprise, he finds a friend, confidante, and companion in more adventure than he'd ever dreamed possible. Follow Philip and the creature as they rescue a lame child, discover 'pirate treasure', and test the mettle of true friendship.

Shadows & Secrets is the first book in the Annals of Wynnewood.

File Size: 652 KB
Print Length: 248 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English


Free for Kindle: The Voyage of Promise by Kay Marshall Strom

She is safe, and she is free . . . but she is still alone.

Slavers burst into Grace Winslow's life with guns blazing and tear her family apart forever. She watches in anguish as her husband is led in chains aboard a tightly packed slave ship bound for America. An old enemy has a more sinister plan for Grace and prepares her for a different kind of servitude in London. But Grace will not be enslaved. And she will not give up on the man she loves. In her determination to be reunited with her husband, she finds God reaching out to her.

File Size: 701 KB
Print Length: 322 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1426702124
Publisher: Abingdon Press; Original edition (March 1, 2010)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English


Thursday Books: The Eyre Affair (A Thursday Next Novel) by Jasper Fforde

Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë's novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.

Reading level: Ages 18 and up
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books (February 25, 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0142001805
ISBN-13: 978-0142001806

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lady Edith Comes Back Swinging

It seems you can't keep a Crawley down long. After her most recent setback, Lady Edith, the middle and often forgotten daughter of Lord and Lady Grantham has listened to her grandmother Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, and stopped whining and done something.

That something (stop reading here if you haven't seen the third episode from this season) is write a letter to the editor of the paper to tout her support of woman's suffrage. Who knew she could be such a force to be reckoned with? Well, her older sister Lady Mary knew, but Lady Mary can give as good as she gets, so Lady Edith has painfully discovered more than once.

Lady Edith

Actually, as I think about the series, creator and writer Julian Fellowes, has managed to create three sisters who act according to their birth order so well. Lady Mary is the traditionalist, her father's pet. She will do anything to save Downton Abbey. Lady Sybil, the youngest, is the wild one. She ran off and eloped with the chauffeur who is a revolutionary seeking a free Ireland. Then there is Lady Edith, the middle child. Jealous of her oldest sister and all the attention paid to her as the first child of the family. Barely tolerating her younger sister, Lady Sybil, and all her antics. In fact, if she had to say a kind word about either of her sisters, I think her face would disintegrate. Lady Edith does spend much of her time whining about how forgotten she is. How nothing in the house is ever about her. Well, until the second episode of this season, and we know that didn't turn out as planned.

The sisters' relationships is one of the most fascinating aspects of the show for me; though I could add many items to that list.

WSJ Wednesday - Better Ways to Discipline Your Kids

Toward the end of the year, I caught this interesting article in the December 26, 2012 edition of The Wall Street Journal. "Smarter Ways to Discipline Kids" by Andrea Petersen states that research suggests which strategies work best. These are techniques used by psychologists to manage/cope/encourage (whatever verb you wish to use) their most difficult children, including those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder.

According to the article, parents should not focus on what happens when the child acts out, but instead decide what behaviors they want to see in their kids and praise them when they see them. I find this tough, and I doubt I'm alone. Not that the child shouldn't be reprimanded when he does wrong, but that a "mild negative consequence" without shouting (very hard for me) plus praise for positive behavior goes a long way.

What doesn't work? Trying to reason with your child and overly harsh punishments (guilty as charged). Here's something I wouldn't have thought of. Psychologists at the Yale Parenting Center have found that getting kids to "practice" temper tantrums can lessen their frequency and intensity. Hmm. Who would have thought that?

What techniques have been most successful for you?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Proud Bargain Hunting

Okay, I'll admit it: I'm not a great bargain shopper. I have my favorite brands; and as long as the quality is consistent, I'm willing to pay for it. I'll buy clothes for myself off-season to save cash, but you'll never see me scouring ads to find the best deal on a product. If it isn't where I normally shop, I don't need it that badly.

Do I sound like a snob?

So, I had to share how proud I am of myself for the great deal I got on a dress from Land's End yesterday. Since my post-40 body has changed shapes in the middle, not many of my old clothes fit. That's what I get for wearing snug-fitting pants and skirts (I truly hate loose clothes). Anticipating a return to the workforce (outside my home), I've slowly been updating my wardrobe. I honestly only have one skirt set and no dresses in  my closet.

Land's End sent me an email with a promo code for 30% off one item, so I decided to see what they have. I found this beautiful dress that was originally $89.99 on sale for $29.99. So, I scooped it up in the wineberry color. The 30% off brought my cost down to $20.99. But I still had to pay $5.95 shipping, so we're at $26.94. Still not bad.

Over Christmas, I turned some of my credit card rewards into gift cards for Land's End. Even though I spent hundreds of dollars, my gift cards covered 98% of it, and I still got to accrue Land's End membership rewards. My total Land's End rewards came to $19.08, which I used toward the purchase of this dress.

In the end, I paid $7.86 total. I had to rush over and tell my mother-in-law, the queen of bargain hunting all about it.

What's the best deal you've ever taken advantage of?

Teaser Tuesdays - January 22nd

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"As we fall upward through the in-between, I realize the light of the sun orbits around us. Bright on bright, it stands out against the galactic tapioca smear of stars behind."

~ page 159, Untimed by Andy Gavin

Monday, January 21, 2013

Is Poor Customer Service Sinking Sears?

If you look like this after a customer service experience, that's never good. After my most recent experience with Sears®, I'm beginning to wonder if poor customer service is partially to blame for their financial woes.

My mother-in-law (MIL) visited our local Sears at the beginning of January to order a Kenmore bread machine like the one I received for Christmas. They didn't have one in stock, but the salesperson offered to order one for her. According to my MIL, they were having technology issues and the order couldn't be placed then, so she left. The reason she went to Sears in the first place was because she had a $40 gift card. This gift card was an attempt on Sears's part to make up for the total screw up on their hot water heater. Sears has a next day delivery guarantee. It took them eight days to deliver and install my in-laws' hot water heater.

At any rate, a few days later, my MIL asked me to order her bread machine online. When I went to do that, however, the gift card now had a zero balance. I checked her email, and she had a message from Sears that said, "Thank you for your purchase." We figured, the salesperson at Sears was able to get the order put through and in a week or so a bread machine would arrive at her home.

Well, when I was at their house Thursday and they still had no bread machine, I called our local Sears store. They were totally useless. They couldn't even find her order in the system. So, I then had to call After a lengthy, frustrating conversation, I discovered the order had been placed, but cancelled because they were out of stock of the unit. Now, you have to realize, both on the day I originally tried to order the unit online and the day I had this conversation with their website claimed the unit could be delivered within a few days.

So, what about the balance of my MIL's gift card? I was told she would receive a new one within 3 to 5 days from the date of the cancelled order. We're still waiting on it.

I could give you other examples of our unfavorable customer service experiences with Sears, but instead, I'll offer this link to Consumer Affairs that lists numerous other complaints from people around the country: 

Poor holiday sales and news that CIT Group halted loans to Sears's suppliers seem to be signs of more tough times for this retailer. Hopefully, they can work on improving customer service and gain back some of their customers. My family shopped at Sears when I was growing up, and it pains me to think one more piece of my childhood will be eliminated.

You've Got Mail Monday

Looking for a job has to be the most depressing task. I feel like I'm trying to get votes for Homecoming Queen and failing miserably. Sent more applications out over the weekend. We'll see what happens.

On a fun note, my All You and Traditional Home magazines arrived last week. I found some recipes in the first one that I would like to try. The latter has an article titled, "10 Pretty and Practical Ideas to Refresh a Tired Kitchen." I'll definitely look at that one, but right around now I'm thinking I need practical ideas to refresh a tired house. After 13 years of looking at a lot of the same stuff, I'm ready for a change.

I was excited to find Untimed by Andy Gavin. I'll be reviewing that one in March at The Children's and Teens' Book Connection.

That's it for this week's You've Got Mail Monday. Hope you have a blessed week.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Guest Blogger: Tanya Stowe, Author of Leap of Faith (Heart's Haven)

Zack Manning is a computer software genius. His company has just offered him a six-figure position. He thinks Zoe Wyndham is pretty in a wispy sort of way but she’s far too ‘other-worldly’ for practical Zack…until she shows up at his front door. Then Zack falls head over heels. There isn’t room in his world for someone like Zoe. Can he trust his heart and take a leap of faith?

Avoiding Land Mines
by Tanya Stowe

Books written in a series with other authors can be a process filled with dangerous land mines. Blow-ups can and often do occur, resulting in tension, frustration, and hurt feelings. Relationships can even be permanently damaged. But if the project is approached with the right attitude and a few smart tricks and tips, a writing partnership can create friendships for a lifetime. Just ask those of us participating in the Heart’s Haven Collection!

I wrote two books with a close friend and collaborated with four other authors on a very successful musical play. I had also worked with friends on a series of linked Valentine’s stories in the local paper. I was very familiar with the ups and downs of writing a series with multiple partners, but I was relatively new to the Pelican Book Group when Mary Manners approached me with the idea of writing a novelette in a series. Mary, Marianne Evans and I had already worked together on a short publicity linked story project, so I knew they were good partners. I simply loved Delia Latham’s story idea centered around an apartment complex with a grumpy landlord who sees angels. My imagination took flight and before I knew it, I had a rough draft and an outline. That’s when we ran into snags.

Great minds think alike. We were shocked and surprised to find we had many crossovers in our stories. We had taken our plots in similar directions, sometimes repeating, but at other times, we contradicted each other. That taught us our first lesson. Tip number 1:
     Create a detailed description of your setting, location, time line and characters.

With a detailed outline, each writer is free to describe the characters and setting in their own way without inhibitions. In spite of precautions however, we discovered that our main shared character, Mr. Hart, our landlord, had different speech patterns. Since he was used in every story, he needed a consistent way of speaking. Delia created a dialect, gave us a few rules of thumb and we stuck to it throughout our stories. This tip provided continuity to Mr. Hart and made Heart’s Haven real to us…and our readers!

After those initial corrections, the editing stopped. We were all experienced writers and knew better than to interfere with another person’s creative process or storyline. Tip number 2:
     Resist the temptation to edit too much.

As writers, our stories are close to our hearts. We write and re-write until we feel they’re perfect. When someone else is writing a part of our story, it never seems right and sometimes the itch to edit is hard to ignore. Ignore it, unless of course, it’s a simple grammar error or typo.

One of the joys of a series project is seeing where each author’s creativity takes the story. Too much editing can stifle an author’s unique voice, and in my opinion, is the main reason for the failure of most partnerships.
     3. Have a designated decision maker and speaker.

Since Heart’s Haven was Delia’s brainchild, we made her the designated contact point. Most of our decisions are made by consensus, but when we needed someone to make a call, that duty…by consensus fell to Delia.

     4. Know what you bring to the table.

Delia has a wonderful, smooth writing voice and is an excellent editor. Mary Manners is the best at creating atmosphere and setting scenes. Marianne clearly sees God’s hand in all things and shares that inspiration in her stories. I’m pretty good at plotting. Since none of these strengths competes or challenges the other, we had very little differences of opinions. Whenever a question did arise, we deferred to the opinion of the writer with that strength. Knowing what we did best and checking our egos at the door made our writing process run smooth and best of all…made it fun!

Following these simple tips, and keeping the right attitude, turned the four of us into a lean, mean writing machine. That writing machine created a community that is real, so real we even created a Facebook page where our characters live and breathe. We’d love for you to come and visit with Pia, Suzanna, Zoe and Kaci at There’s nothing those four love better than a cozy chat…except maybe another Heart’s Haven story of romance and love.

Something tells me more of those stories may be on the way. This lean, mean writing machine is just getting started!

Tanya Stowe has had an eclectic career in market research, arts education and event coordination. She has written for television, publicity firms, national publications, and even collaborated on a Christmas musical. Tanya has been married to her high school sweetheart for thirty-nine years. They have four children and eighteen grandchildren. Recently her husband retired from government work to take a new position. They live in the Middle East and are sharing many new adventures.

Visit Tanya at

Find out more about the Heart's Haven series at

Friday, January 18, 2013

Free for All Friday: A Christmas Kindness by C.C. Gevry

Eight-year-old Robert is eager to share his wish list with Santa at the mall on Christmas Eve. When he meets Glenn, who has only one request for Santa, Robert is confused over what he should do. Can he cast aside what he wants and ask Santa to bring his new friend a special gift?

Inspiration Behind A Christmas Kindness

How is it that children have the ability to reach out and help others in ways adults don't always think to do?

One year, our oldest daughter--then only eight--went door-to-door in our neighborhood collecting money for Toys for Tots. Coordinated by the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve, this program collects new, unwrapped toys each year and distributes them as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in our communities. This summer, my girls ran a lemonade stand so they could bring money to a local animal shelter.

Why don't I think of doing such things? I guess it's easier to write a check and send it in the mail. But what effort is involved in that? My children make it personal, and much more meaningful, by giving something of themselves.

With A Christmas Kindness, I hope to capture the generosity of a child's heart--the way they look at the world as a place of endless opportunities to make a difference.

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Guest Blogger: Marianne Evans, Author of Operation Breathless (Heart's Haven)

Psychologist Susanna Daniels helps troubled teens find their footing and their faith, but in the face of erroneous accusations, she's lost hope, wondering if her work at Wellsprings of Grace even makes a difference any more.

Detroit police officer Gabe Peretti has returned home to Angel Falls, Texas, burned out by the big city, his faith stretched to the breaking point by the badlands he's witnessed and tried so hard to change. He craves fresh perspective, and wisdom enough to discern God's will.

A sparkling kiss and an embattled young lady careening down the wrong path bring Susanna and Gabe together, sweeping them into a set of circumstances that will require enough faith to shine bright, and enough love to leave them both forever changed, and positively breathless.

Read an excerpt!

The woman was in tears.

Curious, Gabe Peretti tugged on his dog’s leash, drawing his companion to a standstill. These weren’t slow building, trickle-and-roll tears. Her head bowed down, her shoulders trembled, and she kept swiping at her eyes with a mangled tissue.

What a sad picture.

The hop and charge of his German Shepherd, who suddenly wanted to spring ahead, distracted Gabe for a moment. Until now he and Axle had enjoyed a quiet, leisurely walk through Falls Park, a municipal facility located at the heart of downtown Angel Falls. A new year had just begun. In East Texas that meant cool weather, but chilly air didn’t keep folks inside. The sun was out, so the park teemed with kids and parents. Verdant trees, jungle gyms, and a few swing sets dotted the facility. Gabe continued to stare, maintaining a tug-of-war that kept Axle in place. Barely. The dog wanted to beeline straight for the woman.


She sat alone, not far away. Tucked against the far end of a green metal bench, bathed in dappled sunlight, her profile was framed by dancing leaves and tree branches that rustled and swayed around her. Gorgeous—but heart achingly sad. Dark brown hair trailed down her back in a satiny river. She was fair skinned and slender.

Fair skinned. Slender. How clinical, how distant. Gabe groaned at himself. He really had been a cop for too long.

A yank on his arm ended his perusal and nearly dislocated Gabe’s shoulder, reminding him to tend to Axle. Grumpy about being interrupted while he admired the woman, Gabe cast his dog a scowl—as if that would accomplish anything of value. “Axle, settle down.”

The deep spoken, firm command worked. For two seconds. After that, Axle surged ahead all over again, straining and coughing, dancing against the confines of the leash, pulling relentlessly on Gabe’s arm, which grew increasingly sore. Axle kept bouncing his attention back and forth between Gabe and the lovely lady.

Weird again.

His policeman’s instinct kicked in once more—the good old protect and defend aspect of Gabe Peretti’s persona that family and friends swore was hard-wired into his DNA. The pedestrian trail led right past her bench. He could wander by, casually. Just to be sure she was OK. Just out of courtesy. Would she be offended? Would she think him intrusive, or—

Another starburst of pain shot through his arm when Axle charged ahead—again. This time, eighty pounds of hard-muscled determination refused to be denied.

“Axle—gimme a break. C’mon!”

Gabe blustered but the next thing he noticed? A prompting. Subtle pressure moved against his shoulders—whisper soft and invisible but strong as steel.

He was drawn to the woman. Physically compelled.

Keeping it Real 
by Marianna Evans

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it hundreds of times: ‘Christian fiction and romance needs to keep it real. Christian fiction needs to paint pictures of modern Christians dealing with modern culture in a Godly manner.’ I couldn’t agree. Fulfilling that challenge spreads hope like seeds just waiting for the nourishment of water and soil.

Answering the call to minister via words and characters to a world that’s becoming more and more secular isn’t easy. Some of you may have heard of the term ‘edgy Christian fiction.’ The label helps to define a level of storytelling that will tackle, in frank terms, such issues as child and spousal abuse, substance addiction, adultery. Issues Christians must confront every day. As authors, so must we. We can’t allow ourselves to back away from looking at modern problems straight on. No fear or self-righteousness must be allowed. After all, we all fall short. We’re all sinners.

I’ve been writing Christian inspirational romance and fiction for three years and if someone had told me back then that I would write a book for the Christian market centered on the crumbling—and redemption—of a loving, Christ-centered marriage as the result of adultery, I would have thought they were crazy. As modern as I can be in my approach to writing Christian fiction and romance, I never dreamed of working hand-in-heart with God to pull off such a plot. Devotion, however, accomplished just that—a portrait of redemption after a very human fall. Then there’s my Heart’s Haven novella, Operation Breathless, which deals with a burned-out cop in recovery after being caught in the crossfire of a gang shoot-out. Meanwhile, the heroine of the story is a counselor for troubled teens who finds herself framed for robbery by one of her young charges.

Messy stuff, huh? Well, sometimes life is messy. That’s when Christian love must shine through. That’s when the loving hand of God reaches into our spirits and works miracles. That’s the reward of writing in this genre: the romance between man and woman, and the romance between God and his beloved creation—you and me—each and every one of us.

And that’s an amazing thing to consider each time I put fingers to keyboard!

I hope you can join me and my dear friends, Delia Latham, Tanya Stowe and Mary Manners this month as we put a wrap on part one of the adventures taking place at Heart’s Haven with the release of Dance with Me! Stories from our favorite apartment complex in southeast Texas continue through the coming year – with special holiday titles we can’t wait to share with you then a special Easter offering as well!

Marianne Evans is an award-winning author of Christian romance and fiction. Her hope is to spread the faith-affirming message of God’s love through the stories He prompts her to create. Readers laud her work as: ‘Riveting.’ ‘Realistic and true to heart.’ ‘Compelling.’

Evans’s novel, Hearts Communion, earned Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year honors in the Romance category as well as best inspirational romance of 2012 by ACRA, a chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Evans has also won acclaim in such RWA contests as The Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence where she has been a finalist twice, and the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence contest.

A lifelong resident of Michigan, Evans is active in a number of a number of Romance Writers of America chapters, most notably the Greater Detroit Chapter where she served two terms as President. She’s also active in American Christian Fiction Writers and the Michigan Literary Network.

Connect with Marianne:
Facebook Reader Page:!/pages/Marianne-Evans/308711716744

Find out more about the Heart's Haven series at

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Diary of a Busy Mom

In case you’re wondering what it’s like to be the mother of a strong-willed child, let me give you a glimpse into the Lil Diva’s brain. Right before Christmas, she decided she would like to write a newsletter to share with her friends. Her first attempt was a sweet one that talked about how awesome her Christmases are and how she hoped they had an awesome Christmas, too.

Now that the holidays are over, I guess it is time to get down to brass tacks and share what’s on her mind. In the spirit of the television show Ned’s Declassified, the Lil Diva has come up with some tips to share with her friends. Here are the first three.

No More Chores for Kids

Nobody wants to do chores. So just say no to parents. It is a parent’s job to do the house work, NOT kids. So no more chores for kids, only adults.

Parents can’t tell you what to do

Parents are ALWAYS telling you what to do. Example: “Go get me that!” Or, “You have to go to what I am going to!” And, “Don’t eat that chocolate!” So, say no when parents tell you to do stuff.

Parents can’t take your stuff

Parents say, “If you don’t do this, I will confiscate this.” That is just STUPID. Just hide it. It is yours, not theirs.

Is it any wonder I started going gray after the Lil Diva was born?

Thursday Books: Thursdays in the Park by Hilary Boyd

Thursdays have always been kind of hard to fill around here. I've tried recipes, but I have to depend upon the hubby to download photos off the camera for me to post--he's got some complicated procedure going that you have to have a Master's Degree to figure out--so I don't tend to write about cooking/baking as much as I would like.

On a whim, I decided to see what kinds of books I could find on Amazon that had Thursday in the title. I'll feature some of them here and see what develops.

What do you do if you've been married to a man for half your life and out of nowhere he leaves your bed – permanently? When this happens to Jeanie, she's furious and hurt, and determined to confront George, her husband of thirty years. Is he in love with someone else? What did she do wrong? He won't tell her.

The brightest day of her week is Thursday, the day Jeanie takes her granddaughter to the park. There, one day, she meets Ray and his grandson. Ray is kind, easy to talk to, and gorgeous – everything George isn't. She starts to live for Thursdays. But does she have the courage, in the teeth of opposition from all sides, to turn her life upside down for another shot at love?

File Size: 1958 KB
Print Length: 353 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 085738516X
Publisher: Quercus (August 4, 2011)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Black Shard Giveaway Winner

Congratulations goes out to Terri F. She won an e-copy of The Black Shard by Victoria Simcox.

Thanks to all who participated. Look for more giveaways coming soon!

WSJ Wednesday - The Opposite of Casual Friday

Why this article caught my eye, I don't know. Perhaps it was because Casual Friday was such a big deal when I was working outside the home. In Andy Jordan's article titled, "If You Really Want to Defy Conformity, Dress Up Today,"* he features San Francisco startup Pulse who holds "Formal Friday," where everyone dresses in their Sunday best instead of the casual business attire during the rest of the week. Jordan mentions Barbarian, a New York digital marketing and creative agency, as one of the early proponents of this tradition.

I love this idea. What do you think of it?

*This article appeared in the Friday, January 4, 2013 edition of The Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Reusing Tip: Packing Away Those Christmas Lights

For years, the picture below is what I would be working with when it came to put up the Christmas trees and garlands. It seemed no matter how carefully I packed up the lights at the end of the season, they would be a tangled mess when I took them out the following year.

I finally got smart. And I didn't have to spend any money to do it. I do most of my shopping online. Amazon is my best friend from November through December. When they package shipments, they often include a cardboard insert. Other vendors do this, too. When it's time to wrap up my Christmas lights, I wind them around these cardboard inserts. They are easy to pack away and stay neat all year long. I also use some of the sturdier food boxes from our groceries. Yes, I could buy those plastic cord winders, but why spend the money when this works just as well. This also makes it much easier to place the lights on the trees when it's time.

It's probably a little late now, but keep this helpful tip in mind for next season.

Teaser Tuesday - January 15th

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Pitcairn grimaced. "The colonel will be lookin' for a way to even the score, so be on your guard..."

~ page 171, Daughter of Liberty by J.M. Hochstetler

Teaser Tuesday - January 15th

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The soft footsteps on the carpet were getting nearer by the second. Marla's eyes grew large and frightened.

~ page 91, The Case of the Mystified M.D. by A. K. Arenz

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Tartan Shroud Blog Tour and Giveaway

A bulldozer unearths a young girl’s body on a golf course in Scotland but for some reason, Fergus Murray, the top crime officer in Tayside seems unwilling to pursue the case. Fergus contacts Willow Stone, his American cousin and pleads for help. Willow, Pinky’s favorite ex-wife, calls in all her chips and convinces Pinky, Bear, Flo, and Ettamae to go to the small Scottish town of Pitlochry to help her cousin find the killer. Along the way the American’s come across a forester with a wonky eye—haggis—the occasional bad weather spring day—various Scottish policeman all named McSomething—mutton pie—a near new, sixty-year-old Austin Taxi—a bathroom that could double for a freezer—the nearly indecipherable Scottish accent—many glasses of whiskey and beer—ancient records—a broadsword—and a real Duke! Ride with Bear, Flo, and Henry during their final mad dash across Scotland to try to stop the murderer before he kills again inside the hallowed halls of Blair Castle.

Prices/Formats: $14.95 paperback, $4.99 ebook
Pages: 320
ISBN: 9780578113258
Publisher: Different Drummer Press
Release: October 1, 2012

Amazon paperback buy link ($14.95):

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More books in the Pinky and Bear series:

The Bloody Birthright (Book 1)

J. Pincus Delmont is the most successful, and ethically challenged attorney north of Las Vegas, and he's Richard Page's only hope to escape execution by lethal injection. Pinky quickly determines his client's tale of betrayal and murder leads to Southern California and demands investigative help from Bear Zarbarte who owes him a sizeable chunk of money. The Bear is as big as a tree, street wise, sort of trustworthy, and not averse to cracking the occasional head when the need arises. A grumbling Bear drives south where he discovers, and falls for Flo Sonderlund-a woman with a body to kill for, and a mouth as caustic as a bucket of lye. By hook and by crook, Pinky, the Bear, and Flo pry a solution to the murder from a string of chumps and patsies that stretches from the fertile hills of Tuscany, Italy to eastern wasteland of Nevada, the home of the Loneliest Road In America.

The Big Show Stopper (Book 2)

Brady Blackstone, America's richest and favorite concert performer, dies in a tragic accident while Bear and Flo, along with thousands of northern Nevada's music lovers, look on in horror. However, before Bear can maneuver Flo back to their apartment to complete her birthday celebration, they stumble across a clue that makes them question if Brady's death was an accident. In The Big Show Stopper, Pinky, a sleazy but sucessful defence attorney, and Bear, a street-wise ex bartender, mix madness with mayhem as you meet Brady's less than grieving widow-a trigger-happy Carson City Cop named Ice Conner-travel in first-class luxury with Pinky as he follows a questionable lead to an exotic location and suffer with Flo in Bear's old pick up while they drive to another of America's armpit locations where they discover Brady Blackstone's killer.

Death is a Cabernet (Book 3)

A humorous mystery that takes Pinky, Bear and Flo into the wine country of northern California to discover who turned a famous winemaker into a purple corpse.

Ken Dalton was born in 1938 at Hollywood Hospital. He grew up with his parents, his older sister, Pat, and younger brother, Richard in Los Angeles. The year 1938 informs the quick reader that Ken’s older than a lot of people, but younger than some.

In a turn of bad luck, the dreaded Polio virus found Ken.

At the end of World War ll, Ken’s family moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming for a year where he learned how to live through snow blizzards, avoid walking through the large pile of coal in the basement, and how to survive life as an Army Officer’s brat on a base called Fort Warren.

By the age of sixteen, after eleven years of operations, therapy, and braces, Ken’s luck changed dramatically when he met the girl of his dreams at a party. A few years later they married, produced three wonderful children, and settled into a happy life in Southern California.

In 1966, Ken, who worked as a technician for Pacific Bell, and his family left Southern California for the green hills of Sonoma County where they bought a home in Sebastopol surrounded with apple trees. A few years later, Ken and Arlene built a new home on three and a half acres. They raised cows, pigs, and learned how to build outstanding fences. While their children grew, they hosted two exchange students, Eva Reimers from Sweden, and Tanja Wuttke from Germany, both of whom are still loved members of the Dalton clan. Also during those years, Ken was promoted to management at Pacific Bell. He eventually ended up responsible for all the central offices, sixty-three, in an area that covered five counties.

In 1977, Ken, Arlene, Bob Wiltermood, and his wife Norma, designed, built, and operated a 2000 case winery named Pommeraie Vineyards. They produced award winning Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. However, after Bob died, the winery was sold. Ken and Arlene moved to a hilltop in Healdsburg.

With the winery gone, and time on their hands, Ken and Arlene started to perform with the Camp Rose Players. Twenty years and forty productions later, both are still acting and singing.

Life was good. All Ken had to do was learn some lines and bow when the audience applauded.

Then, ten years ago, Ken started to write. His first article was published in Golf Illustrated in August 1996. More golf articles followed in national and regional magazines including Golf Magazine and Fairways and Greens.

After a two-year stint on the County Grand Jury, Ken felt the need to begin his first novel.

Now, after a decade of struggle to learn the craft of writing, Ken has become the publishing world’s latest overnight sensation.

Ken Dalton's Web Site:

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Free for All Friday - January 11th International Giveaway

It's another Free for All Friday. Today's giveaway comes to you from Tribute Books Virtual Book Tours and author G. Gordon Dean.

Whoever said 'white-collar crime doesn’t pay' never lived in Washington D.C. TierGroup is a business consultancy firm located in the heart of DC. Its Division Heads have a very cold and calculating unorthodox approach to conducting business. Protecting and serving their clients is the only thing that matters. Nevertheless, loyalty can swing both ways in this journey through greed, corruption, and absolute lack of accountability.

As a former Las Vegas Casino Surveillance Director, Michael Crayter, a straight shooter, becomes an unaware, almost, employee of TierGroup in mid-2001. His transformation takes many shapes from idea man to fraud guru. He embarks on a journey to Iraq, through Hurricane Katrina and eventually takes part in one of the biggest scams in the history of the United States - the TARP funding program. His boss, Charles “The Czar” Zarin, is the ultimate manipulation mentor. Michael Crayter’s experience will last for more than eight years and will make his old Vegas job seem like child’s play.

The investment opportunities the United States has to offer during this timeframe are seemingly endless and the public joins in on the greed. The whole country is riding high on the inflated value train with careless abandonment. There are no regulations followed or laws unbroken by the Mortgage Lenders, Stock Brokers, and Bankers. The bubble is getting bigger and the clock is ticking. It's every man for himself. Divide and conquer. Borrow and spend. No one sees the tsunami coming, except for Charles Zarin. Capitalism will be turned upside down and the money spigot will run dry.

By late 2007 the bubble bursts and our country’s economy is left in ruins. The Treasury is sent in to bail out the white-collar thieves. While losing most of its clients TierGroup and Michael Crayter are left to fend for themselves. Michael Crayter begins to tell his story, in this Four Part first-person narrative, during a 2005 interview at FBI headquarters in Washington D.C.

The Story Behind SCAM FACTORY
by G. Gordon Dean

SCAM FACTORY started out as a dream I had about a job interview with a high-end consulting firm. I initially thought that my dream would make a great movie, but I decided to write a book instead. As I began to develop the plot and storylines I realized I could tie it all in with, past and current, real life events in the U.S. from 2001-2009. It was also relatively easy to combine some of my business experience, and people I have run across over the years, into this story. I grew up in Las Vegas and lived there for about thirty-five years so knowing about Scams, or coming up with my own for this book, wasn’t so hard. The TRUE events that led to the U.S. financial crash, mass business failures, and declines in property values in late 2007 were nothing but ammunition for this novel.

SCAM FACTORY is not a story about the guy in the white cowboy hat saving the town and riding off into the sunset. It is fiction based on reality with a ‘true to life’ outcome. The characters in this story get away with White-Collar crimes just as the real life participants did. The characters are sadistic and have a knack of getting away with almost everything, just like the in real world. It is as simple as that. One of the messages I wanted to convey in writing this story was to show what kinds of professionals were out there exploiting our businesses and citizens without legal retribution. The characters are mostly cold, calculating, and narcissistic.

I figured that using a first person narrative was the best way to tell the story. There are many subjects involved in this story so I divided SCAM FACTORY into four parts to further make it easier to read and understand. Loyalties are lost and revenge is certainly in the plot, but figuring out how to write about it was the key to the story. There is no mention of any existing, or real life, companies-only industries and fictional business entities. Another challenge was making the fictional writing seem realistic. Several of the initial book reviewers were asking if some of the events in the story actually took place. The answer is probably yes, except that only a hand full of people knows how those events really took place.

The consulting firm (TierGroup) in this story, that represents the seventeen major industries, is politically neutral. The idea is that if your money is green then TierGroup, and its clients, do not really care what your political affiliation is. This is also very relevant in the real world, but it seems to be changing for the worst. Although SCAM FACTORY contains many dark sides, it strongly reflects a ‘behind the closed door’ characterization of the reality we have faced over the last six years. The lessons we are still learning as a country are obvious and it may take many more years to recover. Control, perception, manipulation, and greed are still the number one driving forces in the business world today, but on the other hand, there are always two sides to a coin. Only time will tell.

Enjoy SCAM FACTORY and become a fan on Facebook.

Price/Format: $4.99 ebook
Pages: 263
Release: October 15, 2012

Kindle buy link ($4.99):

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G. Gordon Dean is a Real Estate agent and Business Consultant currently living in Arizona. He has been a media buff for over two decades. As a media buff he has kept himself well aware of past and current events in business, government, and politics. He lived in Las Vegas, Nevada for over 30 years. This is his first novel.

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