Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Holidays, Friends and Followers!

My last post listed my favorite books read in 2012. So, as a follow-up to that, I thought I'd share my favorite movies watched in 2012. As with the novels, these are not movies necessarily released in 2012, although many are; they are movies I've watched in 2012 regardless of release date.

And so, without further ado:

Linda's Favorite Movies from 2012! (in no particular order)

1Lincoln (2012):  PG-13
Director Steven Spielberg takes on the towering legacy of Abraham Lincoln, focusing on his stewardship of the Union during the Civil War years. The biographical saga also reveals the conflicts within Lincoln's cabinet regarding the war and absolution.
2.  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) PG-13
To make the most of their meager retirement savings, a group of British seniors moves to India to live out their golden years at the Marigold Hotel. But upon arrival, they discover the once-lavish resort has wilted considerably.

3.  New Year's Eve (2011) PG-13
In this star-studded romantic comedy, the fates of a diverse group of New Yorkers are wound together on New Year's Eve -- including one expectant couple hoping their baby will be the first to be born in the Big Apple after midnight.

4.  Born to Be Wild (2011) G
Filmed in IMAX 3D, this documentary captures the unique and intimate connections that developed between two scientists and two species -- orangutans and elephants -- as the men worked to save the orphaned beasts and return them to the wild.

5. You on a Diet (2007) NR
Using the methods outlined in their best-selling book, doctors Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz transform the lives -- and reduce the waistlines -- of four New Yorkers intent on adopting a healthier lifestyle. By tracking the quartet over a three-month period, you'll learn how the body metabolizes fat and discover the biological connections between the myriad variables that determine true body size, including genetics, stress levels and hormones.
6.  The Nanny (1965) NR
No one believes 10-year-old Joey (William Dix) when he claims it was the family nanny (Bette Davis), not he, who drowned his little sister. When his mother (Wendy Craig) and his aunt (Jill Bennett) suddenly turn up dead, the blame falls on him again. Only a kind neighbor (Pamela Franklin) believes Joey's story, but even with her help, he may not be able to prove his innocence before he becomes the nanny's next victim.
7.  Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) R
Doors slamming shut, shadows moving across the floor -- the unexplained, terrifyingly real supernatural forces are back, and this time, Dan, Kristi, Ali, baby Hunter and dog Abby become part of the nightmare as the cameras roll.
8.  Albert Nobbs (2011) R
Having for decades disguised herself as a man while working as a butler in a posh 19th-century Dublin hotel, a woman calling herself Albert Nobbs reconsiders her charade when a handsome painter arrives on the scene.
9.  Virginia  (2010) R
As he campaigns for state senator, Dick Tipton's career and personal life begin to careen out of control when his daughter starts dating the son of an emotionally disturbed woman he knows quite well -- perhaps a little too well.
10. Mildred Pierce (2011) TV-M
Based on the 1941 novel by James M. Cain, this HBO miniseries follows the turbulent life of Mildred Pierce, a fiercely independent single mom who works hard to win her daughter's love while struggling to make ends meet in Depression-era Los Angeles.
11. The Artist (2011) PG-13 
Winner of five Oscars, this artful black-and-white silent film follows the romance between a silent-era superstar on a downward spiral and a rising young starlet who embraces the future of cinema at the dawn of the "talkies."
12. J. Edgar (2011) R
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in this riveting biopic as J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime FBI director as notorious for his overzealous methods of law enforcement as for the rumors regarding his cross-dressing and close relationship with protégé Clyde Tolson.

13. The Descendants (2011) R
With his wife on life support in the wake of an accident, an affluent landowner tries to mend his broken relationships with his daughters. All the while, he's weighing his marriage -- and the decision to sell land his family has owned for decades.
14. W.E. (2011) R
This glossy ensemble drama juxtaposes the lives of famous divorcée Wallis Simpson and Wally Winthrop, a young 1990s housewife. Wally yearns to have a romance as dramatic as Wallis's but soon discovers that history can be misleading.
15. Midnight in Paris (2011) PG-13
In this charming romantic comedy, legendary director Woody Allen focuses his lens on an engaged young couple whose experiences traveling together in Paris make them begin to question the kind of life they want to live.
16. The Queen of Versailles (2012) PG
Meet the Siegels, glitterati who made a fortune in the time-share business only to see it crumble in the 2008 financial collapse. The site of their rise and almost-fall is their home (America's largest), a gaudy replica of the Palace of Versailles.

17. Les Miserables (2012) (I haven't seen it yet, but know I'm going to love it!) PG-13
The musical version of Victor Hugo's epic tale of love and sacrifice, first produced for the stage in 1985, now receives the big-screen treatment. The bloody era of the French Revolution is the backdrop to Jean Valjean's long struggle for redemption.
Happy Movie Watching in 2013!!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Happy Holidays, Friends, Family and Blog Followers!

I am SO excited for today's blog, because my dear friend, and critique partner, Sarah J. Bradley has just released her latest romantic suspense novel, "Fresh Ice"!  Having already read this novel, I can tell you that it's got everything one is looking for in a great romance - longing, unrequitted love, suspense, excitement, tragedy, a handsome hero, a lovely heroine, conflict and a villain you don't want to meet up with on the street!  If you haven't read anything by Sarah J. Bradley, you must start now!  All her novels are available at, Barnes and, and and its affiliates.

I'm also pleased to tell you that I've known Sarah for many years.  She is one of the kindest, wittiest, cleverest, and talented women I know.  And I'd like you to know her too!  So, without further ado, here is the author interview she recently granted me regarding her new novel, "Fresh Ice"!


Fresh Ice by Sarah J. Bradley

1.  Congratulations on the new book, "Fresh Ice". Tell us about it!  Izzy Marks is recently widowed and finds out that her husband, unbeknownst to her, has bankrupted the family.  With nothing to hold her in Wisconsin, she moves to Nashville where her daughter goes to college, and where Izzy grew up as a notaionally ranked pairs' figure skater.  There she meets former NHL bad boy, Quinn Murray.  Quinn's got a raft of issues all his own, but he's been in love with Izzy since the first day he saw her skate on television, and he's determined to rebuild his reputation so he's good enough for her.
2.  What inspired your story?  First it was my critique partner, Linda Schmalz.  Hey, that's you!  I had a completely different storyline in mind for this book, but after reading the first few chapters, as you probably recall, you hated everything except the names of the main characters.  Then along comes my cousin, Jill.  After reading my first novel, "Dream in Color," Jill said she liked the rock and roller romance, but she felt, with my love of hockey, that I should write a romance involving a hockey player.  She even went so far as to connect me with her very good friend and NHL superstar, Jeremy Roenick.  That phone call changed the course of my book, and literally built Quinn Murray's character.  Writing Izzy was not as easy, and again I have you, Linda, to thank for her.  We were walking your dog one night during the last winter Olympics and I was bemoaning the fact that Izzy bored me.  "If she could be something interesting, like a figure skater..."  I said.  "So make her a figure skater,"  you said.  And thus, the book was reborn.
3.   This is your third romantic suspense novel. What draws you to this genre?  Well I'm all about the tall, dark, and damaged heroes!  I also grew up loving TV shows where people were constantly being rescued, and I think that has a lot to do with how I write.  I also believe that everyone is connected in some way through our pasts, and that we wind up paying for past sins one way or another.  My second novel, "Lies in Chance" was all about how our past connects us in a web.  I sort of echo that theme, albeit a bit more obviously, with Fresh Ice.  Throw in broken hearts, and evil villains, and I'm hooked.  Since I like to write the type of stories I like to read or watch, I guess I'm hooked on the romantic suspense.
4.  What is your writing process like?  It's a mess.  I would not recommend anyone take my approach to writing at all, ever.  :)  I work full time and have a side business on weekends, so I write by inspiration, when I have time.  And I write like some people put together puzzles:  I write scenes and then figure out where they all go as I go along.  I depend heavily on my critique partners, who definitely have a challenge keeping my character continuity complete.  (Say that three times fast!)  Oh, and I get inspired by random songs, so the first thing I have to start before I get serious about writing, is a soundtrack, and that's something that builds as the story builds.  I was adding songs to the soundtrack for "Fresh Ice"  as I was writing the words "the end."  But thank goodness for my iTunes account because every song I added helped me sort out a character one way or another.  In fact, I have The New Minstrel Revue to thank for most of the book because their song "Thank you for Asking" was vital for both Quinn and for my other main male character, Collier.  I should also thank the band "Toto" for their music which made every skating scene sing.
5.  Do you get writer's block, and if so,how do you over come writer's block?  I don't think of it as writer's block.  I think of it as days I write and days I don't feel inspired.  Again, if you are writing, do not write like I do!  To over come a lack of inspiration, I play the songs on the soundtrack over and over, and I try and watch movies or TV shows where there's peril and a good looking male lead who has a checkered past.  I watch a lot of "JAG" reruns.  (Physically speaking, David James Elliot IS Quinn Murray.)  Also, if I'm really not inspired, I crack open a bottle of pinot noir, and just start writing.  I may toss everything out the next day, but I usually find something in there worth keeping.
6.  If your novel were made into a movie, who would you cast in the roles?  THAT would be easy!  David James Elliott for Quinn.  Kari Turner  (also of JAG)  for Izzy.  Kevin James  (King of Queens)  for Benny.  And I see Russell Crowe , for reasons all my own and because Collier is getting his own book at some point, for the role of Collier James.  As for my villain, the red headed Serena, I see in my head who I always see in my head for my villains, the brilliant soap actress Elizabeth Keifer, (Blake Marler from "Guiding Light.")  In her prime she was the very best at being beautiful and oh so bad.  So we'd have to find someone like her to play pretty much all my lethal beauties.
7.  What songs would be on the movie soundtrack? Besides "Thank you For Asking"  and "Won't hold you Back"  I have to add another Toto song, "Stop Loving you"  Night Ranger's "Good bye" Enya's "Last Time by Moonlight" and "Stars and Midnight Blue." James Durbin's "Deeper" And Rick Springfield's version of "Broken Wings."  (My apologies to Mr. Mister, but Rick's voice has a more broken quality to it.)  Rick would also have "Blue Rose" and "Free" on the soundtrack.  Oh, and of COURSE  TOFOG would have "Other ways of Speaking" and "Inside her Eyes."  So there's all that!  :)
8.  What do you like to read?  My husband has been really good at finding great books for me to read.  Currently I'm reading J.K. Rowling's "A Casual Vacancy" and loving it.  I love anything Phillipa Gregory and Andrianna Trigiani put out.  Oh, and I have this new author who's a special favorite...Linda Schmalz.  :)  Her first novel, "A Lonely Sky" is breathtaking. (Interviewer's note: Thank you!)
9.  Any advice for new writers starting out?  Keep writing.  Write, write, and write some more.  Have critique partners you trust.  You don't even have to meet them ever, although it doesn't hurt.  But have critique partners.  Enter a couple contests, get feedback there.  Get into a writing class, most tech schools or junior colleges offer them.  Check your local park and rec department for a writers' group.  Talk to writers, drink coffee, and talk to more writers.  But you must keep writing.
10.  What is the best writing advice you ever received? What is the worst?  The best came from Author J. A. Konrath.  He spoke at a conference and it was the first time I'd ever heard an established author talk about the joys and sense of e-publishing.  Then I got to sit next to him at a book signing at that same conference.  It was a gift because it was like my own private tutoring session.  
The worst advice?  "write what you know."  Oh sure, if you're starting out, you probably shouldn't write a 900 page opus on World War I, unless, of course, you are a World War I scholar.  And in all my books there's a lot of me, and my real life.  But "Fresh Ice" is  a huge step for me because there's less of me in this book than in my two previous, and I think this is my strongest story yet.  I think if authors only write what they know, we'd have far fewer dramatic romances and a lot more stories about picking up kids and taking them to soccer practice.  Reading is an escape.  Writing should be also.

11.  What part of the writing process do you find easy, and what part do you find difficult?  Starting something new is hard.  That completely blank screen is scary.  The writing itself is easy and fun, even though I grumble sometimes because my characters aren't behaving.  Editing is not so much fun, especially that final line edit when you're not really reading, you're just dotting i's and crossing t's.
12.  Panster or planner? Pantster.  Now and forever.
13. What can we expect next from author Sarah Bradley?  2013 is going to be the year of Elsie W.  I've been promising friends and Sunday School students that I'd write my stories about a former co worker of mine.  I have enough material for three books and that's my project for 2013.  It's going to be a big departure because 1)  It'll be nonfiction, 2)  It'll be funny and 3)  It'll be under a different name.  (I have to protect the innocent on this one.)
14.  And in the spirit of the holiday, what is your favorite Christmas song?  Carol of the Bells.  Any version of that song.  It so embodies the holidays as we know them.  A slow, peaceful start, the way we all intend the holidays to be.  By the end, it's frantic and wild, like most of our holidays turn out.
15.  Any last words? Don't buy the hype buy the story.  Read independent authors.  Often the stories are fresher, because publishing houses don't publish what they think they can't sell and they don't want something new, they want something that they know will sell.  Which is why we still have a million vampire stories coming out.  And if you do read a book that is published by a small press or published independently, please leave a positive review.  New authors and e-authors have no advertising budget.  All they have is word of mouth.  
Thank you, Sarah!  And now folks, here's where you can easily access and buy Sarah's book!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My 2012 Recommended Reading List!

     2012 is not quite over, but the coming weeks will be busy, and I won't finish reading any more novels this month, so I'm going to go ahead and answer what you all have been wondering: "What novels did Linda read and like best this year?"

     Yes, it's time for "Linda's Favorite Novels of 2012"!!!!  Now, please note that these are novels/books I read during 2012, not ones that were necessarily published in 2012. I don't know why I feel that is important to mention, but there you go. My reading taste also varies widely, so hopefully, whether you love romance or non-fiction, you'll find something on my list to add to your "Can't Wait To Read This!" list.

     I need to add an aside. I have so many talented friends who are authors, and whose books I love and adore.  I would have loved to include each and every book I read by these talented authors, but then my blog would have turned into a novel itself. Plus, its very hard to choose favorites from all that talent, so rest assured dear Friends Who Are Authors, your books are very special to me as well! 

     And so, without further ado! (And in  no particular order. These all received 5/5 star ratings from me.)

Linda's Favorite Novels of 2012!

1.   "A Dangerous Inheritance"  by Alison Weir  (Historical Fiction) -  England's Tower of London was the terrifying last stop for generations of English political prisoners. A Dangerous Inheritance weaves together the lives and fates of four of its youngest and most blameless: Lady Katherine Grey, Lady Jane's younger sister; Kate Plantagenet, an English princess who lived nearly a century before her; and Edward and Richard, the boy princes imprisoned by their ruthless uncle, Richard III, never to be heard from again. Across the years, these four young royals shared the same small rooms in their dark prison, as all four shared the unfortunate role of being perceived as threats to the reigning monarch.

2.  "The Last Queen" by C.W. Gortner -  (Historical Fiction) Juana of Castile, the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country’s throne, has been for centuries an enigmatic figure shrouded in lurid myth. Was she the bereft widow of legend who was driven mad by her loss, or has history misjudged a woman who was ahead of her time? In his stunning new novel, C. W. Gortner challenges the myths about Queen Juana, unraveling the mystery surrounding her to reveal a brave, determined woman we can only now begin to fully understand.  

3.  "Mercury: An intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury" by Lesley-Ann Jones (Biography)- As lead vocalist for the iconic rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury’s unmatched skills as a songwriter and flamboyant showmanship made him a superstar, and Queen a household name. But few people ever really glimpsed the man behind the glittering faÇade.      Mercury was the first major rock star to die from AIDS. Now, twenty years after his death, those closest to him are finally opening up about this pivotal figure in rock n’ roll. 

4. "The Inn at Rose Harbor" by Debbie Macomber (Romance) - Jo Marie Rose first arrives in Cedar Cove seeking a sense of peace and a fresh start. Coping with the death of her husband, she purchases a local bed-and-breakfast—the newly christened Rose Harbor Inn—ready to begin her life anew. Yet the inn holds more surprises than Jo Marie can imagine.  

5. "Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13" by Jim Lovell (Non-Fiction) - The full story of the moon shot that almost ended in catastrophe has never been told, but now Lovell and coauthor Jeffrey Kluger bring it to vivid life. What begins as a smooth flight is transformed into a hair-raising voyage from the moment Lovell calls out, "Houston, we've got a problem."  

6. "Best Enemies" by Jane Heller (Fiction) - Book publicist Amy Sherman tripped over it when she caught her fiancé horizontally attached to her best friend, the impossibly tall, inexcusably blonde, and insufferably gorgeous Tara Messer, who added insult to injury by marrying the cad right out from under her.  After four years of therapy, Amy's finally back on track-until she has to publicize the hottest new book of the season by "the next Martha Stewart." Nightmares do come true. It's the dreaded Tara who's the author, and why shouldn't she write a bestseller about perfection? She's the perfect woman enjoying the perfect life with the perfect man. Who'd ever guess she's living the perfect lie? 

7.  "Victoria R.I." by Elizabeth Longford (Biography) -  In this biography, Lady Longford, long recognized as an authority on the subject, gives a full account of Queen Victoria's life and provides her unique assessment of the monarch. Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 on the death of her uncle, William IV. In 1840, she married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

8. "'Til Death Do Us Part" (Bailey Weggins Mystery #3)  by Kate White- (Fiction/Mystery) - In Bailey's latest outing, she takes the plunge into a world of domestic divas and deadly nuptial doings. When she gets a call from Ashley Hanes on a frigid night, Bailey expects to be hit up for fashion show tickets. Instead Ashley reveals that two bridesmaids from Peyton Cross's wedding have recently died in freak accidents...and Ashley is terrified she's next.  

9.  "Bring Up the Bodies" Wolf Hall #2 by Hilary Mantel (Historical Fiction) - The sequel to Hilary Mantel's 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn.  

10. "703: How I Lost More than a Quarter Ton and Gained My Life" by Nancy Makin (Non Fiction) - Nancy Makin weighed an astounding 703 pounds in May 2000. She was forty-five years old and had diabetes and heart disease. Thanks in equal parts to shame and logistics, she'd been homebound for a dozen years. But all that changed after a gift from her sister: a computer. A technophobe, Nancy ignored it for months, until finally boredom and curiosity pushed her into cyberspace. And there, in a chat room, she found the friendliness, the support, and even the love she'd been missing for so long. Nobody flinched when Nancy spoke up; people treated her with the same respect accorded to everybody else. Thanks to these emotional connections, Nancy's life was transformed. 

11. "A Body to Die For" (Bailey Weggins Mystery #2) by Kate White (Fiction/Mystery) - Bailey thinks a weekend at a friend's country inn and spa sounds like the perfect pick-me-up after her recent brush with death. Unfortunately, the publicity that follows Bailey's discovery of a dead body in a mud wrap won't be a selling point for the healthful qualities of her friend's otherwise delightfully elegant Massachusetts resort.

12. "Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell is This?" by Marion Meade (Biography) - with an afterward by Marion Meade.  

13. "The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, The Epidemic That Shaped Our History" by Molly Caldwell Crosby (Non-Fiction) - The American Plague reveals the true story of yellow fever, recounting Memphis, Tennessee's near-destruction and resurrection from the epidemic-and the four men who changed medical history with their battle against an invisible foe that remains a threat to this very day.

14. "Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife" by Irene Spencer (Non-Fiction) -  Irene Spencer did as she felt God commanded in becoming the second wife to her brother-in-law Verlan LeBaron. When the government raided their community-the Mormon village of Short Creek, Arizona-seeking to enforce the penalties for practicing polygamy, Irene and her family fled to Verlan's family ranch in Mexico. Here they lived in squalor and desolate conditions with Verlan's six brothers, one sister, and numerous wives and children. This appalling and astonishing tale has captured the attention of readers around the world. Irene's inspirational story reveals how far religion can be stretched and abused and how one woman and her children found their way out, into truth and redemption.

15. "I Got This: How I Changed My Ways and Lost What Weighed Me Down" by Jennifer Hudson (Non-Fiction) - Soulful and sultry, Jennifer Hudson wowed the world with her powerful voice in American Idol's third season, and then took Hollywood by storm with a star turn in Dreamgirls that won her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. But before we knew her as an American Idol standout, Jennifer was singing in her church choir in the South side of Chicago. This uplifting memoir tells the story of Jennifer's meteoric rise from American Idol to Dreamgirls to her amazing weight loss on the mega blockbuster Weight Watchers diet plan. 

16.  "Nefertiti" by Michelle Moran (Historical Fiction) - Love, betrayal, political unrest, plague, and religious conflict—Nefertiti brings ancient Egypt to life in vivid detail. Fast-paced and historically accurate, it is the dramatic story of two unforgettable women living through a remarkable period in history.

17. "The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York" by Deborah Blum (Non-Fiction) -  Deborah Blum, writing with the high style and skill for suspense that is characteristic of the very best mystery fiction, shares the untold story of how poison rocked Jazz Age New York City. In The Poisoner's Handbook Blum draws from highly original research to track the fascinating, perilous days when a pair of forensic scientists began their trailblazing chemical detective work, fighting to end an era when untraceable poisons offered an easy path to the perfect crime.

Happy Reading in 2013!!!!


Monday, November 26, 2012

I Am Thankful For...

    November is my busiest month. Most people find December, with all it's shopping and holidays, the more stressful month, but for me, it's November. Not only do I start my Christmas shopping, but also, everyone I seem to know, or am related to, was born in November. (I think we can thank having Valentine's Day in Februrary for that.)  Even  my son and husband have November birthdays. And, I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time EVER, this year, so add that in as well.

So, I'm late with my November gratitude, but without further ado, I am thankful for:

1.  My husband, son, mother, in-laws, extended family, friends and pets. I was thankful to have people around my table at Thanksgiving this year, thankful to those who contributed in all ways to the dinner, thankful for the food we were abundantly blessed with, and thankful I didn't burn anything. I'm especially thankful to my brother and his girlfriend for making and bringing the turkey, as I've never made one before, and didn't think it'd be nice to use my family as guinea pigs on my first try.

2.  I'm grateful that all those I know who had to travel this Thanksgiving, made it safely to their destinations and back.

3.  I am thankful for people who say thank you. Seriously. I'm amazed at the many  people who I will send a gift to in the mail, who never respond that they received it, nor say thank you. So, I'm very thankful when someone acknowledges that I was thinking of them and that they want me to know they received my gift.

4.  I'm thankful for my health. I'm not thankful for my persistant tendonitis in my left leg, but I know that at the tender age of fifty, things could be a lot worse, so I'm grateful for my health.

5.  I'm thankful to be able to use any extra time I can find in my day to do what I love, writing. I'm thankful for my critique partners, and thankful to all who buy my books. I'm thankful to everyone who thinks I have a shred of talent. You inspire me.

6.  I'm thankful I chose not to do NaNo this year. I learned my lesson the last two years, that trying to do NaNo on top of all the stress just wasn't going to cut it, and the last thing I needed  was to feel that I failed--again.

7.  I'm thankful for other writers. Without them, what would I do aboiut my love for reading? Can you imagine a world without books? That said, I'm also very thankful for libraries.

8.  I'm thankful for movies and television. Enough said.

9. I'm thankful to the celebrities who use their fame and vast wealth to make the world a better place.

10. I'm thankful to all who rescue and help find homes for abandoned or abused animals.

Tally and I the day we met! 

11. I'm thankful to all who dedicate their careers to helping others and the men and women who work to find cures for cancer, autism and other diseases/disabilities afflicting my family and friends. 

12. I'm thankful I found a great dental office and am no longer afraid to go to the dentist. :-)

13.  I'm grateful to live in a wonderfully multicultural neighborhood with friendly and fantastic neighbors.

14.  I'm grateful for warmer winters in Wisconsin, mostly because I have to walk the dog so much. (My apologies to those upset about global warming).

15. I'm thankful for cheese ravioli and wine!

And on that note, I want to wish you all Happy Holidays and the best New Year ever!



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review: The Last Queen by C. W. Gortner

     From time to time, I'll be doing book reviews on my blog, as I'm not only a writer, but an avid reader. My love for reading came at a very early age, so early in fact, that I couldn't wait to learn it at school, and taught myself how at age four. (Back then in 1966, that was a big deal. Not so much anymore. Oh well.) My reading interests vary from everything from romance to non-fiction true crime, with a special interest in historical biographies. And so, without further ado, here is a book review for you!  

     I have to admit, I'm an anglophile, so reading a novel about a Spanish queen, was a bit out of my interest comfort zone. And yet, I was completely drawn into this well-researched and richly detailed biographical novel, and the story of Juana, heiress to the Spanish throne, and her plight to win the crown, despite a husband and a father desperate to steal it from her. Oh yes,that and the world was told she was mad. (She supposedly kept the coffin of her deceased husbands and his dismembered remains with her wherever she went.) But, author C.W. Gordon, through his first-person point of view, gives the reader another view of Juana, and one that might possibly be closer to the truth. Juana tells us her story - from her arranged and ultimately tormenting marriage to the Hapsburg Emperor's son Philip to their lethal struggle for the throne of Spain. Did Juana really suffer from mental illness or were her actions deliberate to keep her enemies at bay? The novel is exciting, intriguing, fascinating and a must read if historical biographies interest you. This is one novel not to be missed!

5/5 stars!

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Next Big Thing Bloghop!

Betsy Norman tagged me in The Next Big Thing Bloghop! I am to tell you all about the latest book I am querying for representation and share the love by tagging other bloggers.

1. What is the working title of your book? Restless Hearts

2. Where did you get the idea for your book?  I watched a documentary about an infamous woman around the turn of the century.

3. What is the genre of your book? Historical Romantic Suspense

4. Which actors would you choose to play the characters in your book? My hero would be played by Dan Stevens who currently plays Matthew Crawley on "Downton Abby", and my heroine would be played by Joanne Froggatt who plays Anna on "Downton Abby". 

5. My one sentence elevator pitch? Young, beautiful, Irish immigrant learns to live and love again when she finds herself alone in New York City after her fiance' perishes on the Titanic.

6. Will your book be represented by a publisher or self-published? I have previously self-published two novels and will most likely self-publish this one, however, I will query it out a bit first. I'm certainly not opposed to acquiring and agent and publisher. :-)

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft? I started this a couple months ago and am on Chapter Ten. I'm not a fast writer, but hey, life happens.

8. What other books compare in your genre?  Nothing could possibly compare to this novel. LOL. <wink>

9. Who or what inspired your book? See #2 above--probably also the movie "Titanic" because I fell in love with that period in American history after watching that movie.

10. What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest? I've got some terrific villains who make Brigid's life in New York dreadful. Lots of twists and turns you won't see coming. I think it's a unique story.

For this bloghop, I’m supposed to carry on the chain by tagging up to five other writer/bloggers. Here are two awesome and inspiring fellow writers:

Sarah Bradley
Angie Stanton

Monday, November 5, 2012

What To Expect When You're Expecting a Critique Partner

Okay, let’s start off with a disclaimer. I am not an expert in anything regarding writing, with the exception of being an expert on writing my own novels.  LOL.  I do, however, know a bit about having and being a critique partner, what to look for when choosing one (I have six, I'm like a critique partner hoarder!) and what they should and shouldn’t do while critiquing your precious baby, your novel.

First of all, no writer is an island.  It takes a village to raise a novel. Seriously. Yes, you alone are the all-knowing author, but let’s face it, your novel is your baby, and we all tend to think our babies are simply the most beautiful beings God ever graced the earth with.

Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but you can’t fairly judge your own writing or find all your own typos, and yes, you’re going to have to admit it, and I’m sorry if it hurts, but sometimes your grammar will suck and you just won’t see it. This is where the Critique Partner (i.e. the nanny of  your novel) comes in. She/he can look at your baby objectively and tell you why your baby lost that last beauty contest. But, your critique partner should be able to do this in a way that doesn’t make you stop writing your novel, stop writing forever, or start you plotting...their murder. Also, your critique partner is not God. Her/his ideas, changes, suggestions, corrections, whatever, are NOT the almighty answer to your writing challenges. They are simply his/her opinions and it’s up to you to buck up, read them for what they are worth, and then decide if these suggestions work for your story. 

That was a quick overview, so let me simplify things by offering a few guidelines when a selecting critique partner.

1.  Have more than one critique partner. Some people like to meet with a critique group. Hey, if that works for you, more power to you. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have a group of writers to do this with, so I do critiques on-line with six wonderful women. SIX?  Yes, six. Now, I would recommend having just about two or three, but each of my critique partners are unique in their own critiquing skills and strengths, so I’m loath to give any of them up. So six works for me. Why do I recommend more than one critique partner? Simple: one set of eyes will not find everything wrong with your book, trust me. What if your one critique partner is great finding typos but doesn’t know when your grammar has gone south?  What if your one critique partner is a grammar guru but is weak on judging plot lines, point of view, or style? I have found that by having more than one person critique my novel, each person usually finds something else the others may have missed. For instance:

Critique Partner A:  She is amazing at tightening up my writing. She knows where to cut words.  Also, she’s very good at telling me where I need to add more “heat” into my romantic scenes.

Critique Partner B:  She is awesome with finding point of view errors in my novel, no matter how subtle.  CP-B also finds a lot of little typos that others miss …extra spaces in text, etc.

Critique Partner C:  My newest critique partner and I’m so glad I took her on!  She is a word master!  She finds words that I use incorrectly.  For instance, I had my heroine “procure” a bun to her head. Only CP-C realized that the correct word is “secure” not “procure”.  

Critique Partner D:  She is super knowledgeable about history and what did or did not happen, what people wore or did not wear, said or didn’t say, at just about any given time period in history.  She’s like my own private researcher. She is also constantly on my case about choosing stronger and more unique verbs and descriptive words. 

Critique Partners E and F:  They are really good for my ego. LOL. They are my cheerleading squad and seem to adore everything I write. But they do also find errors in my work and so when these two don’t like something, I fix it.

2.  Your Critique Partner is Not God.  Just because a critique partner suggests you change “the floor was dirty” to “the dirty floor” doesn’t mean you have to. However, (and this is where I find having more than one critique partner helpful), if more than one of your critique partners suggest the same change, change it. Let’s say Critique Partner A suggests a change that I don’t agree with and none of the other partners find anything wrong with that particular prose. I won’t make the change. If however, CPs B and C would suggest that change along with Partner A, whether or not I disagree with them, I will make the change. Three people have found something wrong with that sentence. That screams “CHANGE IT.” And I do. And so should you.

2.  Which leads us to, the actual critique. My strongest advice to you, when receiving a critique back, is to make sure you’ve inserted your spine. Be prepared to hear that your baby is not quite as pretty as you imagined, and you need to do a little mothering.  Believe me, I have sent chapters to my critique partners thinking it was the most brilliant, perfectly written piece of prose even know to man, only to have them send it back with highlighted typos, weak verbs, etc. the list goes on.  Do not get mad at your critique partners for their suggestions; this is what you’re paying them the big bucks (LOL) for.

3.  There is no crying in Critique-ball.  Seriously. A returned critique should not be so harsh it makes you cry, nor should your critique of someone else’s work be so harsh, you make them cry. Nor should a critique make you feel like you’re a horrible writer and dear God, whatever were you thinking taking pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. If a critique makes you feel like you want to destroy your work and never write again, your critique partner is a horrid critique partner and it’s time to tell them, in the immortal words of Justin Timberlake, “Baby, bye, bye, bye”. 

2. If a critique partner only glorifies your work and never finds ANYTHING for you to fix, they’re not doing you any good, either.  Something will need to be fixed. If your critique partner never suggests anything for you to think about or change, they’re not doing their homework and you’re paying them (LOL) way too much.  Again, you may have to tell this critique partner “bye-bye”.

3.  A good critique partner explains their suggestions, they just don’t fix or change your writing. If someone is simply rewriting your prose, and you’re not understanding why, you aren’t learning anything from critiques and not advancing as a writer. If a suggestion from your critique partner confuses you, ask them about it! But don’t WHINE about it. There’s a big difference there.  

4. A good critique partner gives you positive encouragement along with pointing out your errors. Not only should they suggest ways to improve your work, they should also tell you what is good about your work. If you’re only get negative feedback from a critique partner, they are doing you a disservice.

5.  Critique partners should not try to change your plot. This is your story, and no one has the right to tell you how the plot should go. They may ask you to change a character somehow, or maybe change a setting to somewhere that works better, but the basic plot and theme are yours.  If someone wants to completely change your story, then it no longer becomes your story, it becomes theirs. Stick to your guns, or tell that critique partner, bye-bye.

6. Learn from and share your knowledge with your other critique partners!  I have learned so much from my wise and talented critique partners. Through them, I believe my writing improves with each critique. I take to heart their knowledge and try to use it in my own critiques so that my other writing friends benefit as well.  Remember, it takes a village!

I hope I’ve given you some good guidelines to follow for finding a good, supportive critique partner and for writing supportive critiques yourself.  Again, I’m no expert, I just know what works for me, and by sharing this information, I hope someone will benefit and sell that book!

Best wishes on your writing journey!

Coming soon:  "A Day in the Life"...Remembering A Friend. 


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bohemian Rhapsody and Me

An awesome book! 
“Bohemian Rhapsody and Me”

I’m currently reading “Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury” by Lesley-Ann Jones. It’s a fascinating and richly detailed intimate look into the life of the brilliant musician, composer, singer and entertainer, whose life was cut short by AIDS in 1991.  By all accounts, the biography is fabulous, encompassing not only Freddie’s life, but also details on how the rock group Queen was formed, and provides history on the songs they wrote.

I recently read the chapter on the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” which was/is as Jones describes it, “an epic undertaking comprising an a cappella introduction, an instrumental sequence of piano, guitar, bass, and drums, a mock-operatic interlude and a loaded rock conclusion”.  Yep, it’s strange, complicated and masterminded, incorporating a mishmash of ballad, opera and rock into one electrifying song.

 “Bohemian Rhapsody” nearly didn’t make it onto the airwaves, however. According to Jones, “Elton (John) denounced it …as a surefire flop. EMI and the industry in general voiced misgivings. Radios stations wondered what the hell …to do with a six minute single. Even bassist John Deacon expressed his fears …that to release “Bohemian Rhapsody” would prove the greatest error judgment of Queen’s career.” More: “Even those who recognized its magnificence immediately were reluctant to go on record, so dramatic was the departure of “Bohemian Rhapsody” from any previous accepted convention of rock.”

Add to that, no one had a clue what the lyrics meant, although some had theories (Freddie never revealed what they meant). Some people say it’s Freddie’s “coming out” song.  Jones suggests her theory, that the characters represented the band members… (i.e. Freddie being Scaramouch, the clown, Brian being the scientist, etc.) Freddie neither confirmed nor denied any of this. Some believe the song is meaningless. And yet, it sold. BIG, and even bigger when the video came out; and, according to Jones, “it hit number one again for five weeks after Freddie’s death in 1991”. 

Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the Fandango?

“So what does this have to do with YOUR writing, Linda?” you may ask. “YOU, Linda, are no creative genius as was Freddie.”
My answer: “Yes.” Sigh. “I know.”

But what I related to in this chapter about this particular song was the myriad of reasons people felt “Bohemian Rhapsody” would never sell. Lots of naysayers on that one, baby. And yet, it still sold millions. Why? 

Simple. It was genius. It was unique. It was different and someone took a chance on it. Isn’t that what we as writers hope, dream and pray happens to our work?

 I’ve attended a lot of writing conferences, workshops, and meetings and listened to many different authors talk about their writing processes. I’ve read books on writing, taken classes and, yes, even wrote two, what I think are, pretty decent novels.  It wasn’t easy. What’s easy is to stop writing. To listen to the naysayers who say your book MUST be written according to the Holy Grail of Writing Rules. “Stick to one POV (point of view), don’t use adverbs, don’t write too much back-story, don’t kill off your characters at the end,” etc. The list goes on and on.
 Can you imagine Freddie sticking to rules as he wrote “Bohemian Rhapsody”?  "Oh no, Freddie, you can’t write a song no one will ever understand. Oh no, Freddie, you can’t mix opera with rock."  But Freddie did it -the way HE wanted.

So I guess what I’d like to tell others who are struggling with the writing process is to remember that writing out- of- the box can be a good thing. The hardest part of writing, I’ve found, is ignoring the naysayers, the ones who say, “that book will never sell because…(insert a myriad of reasons)" and they want you to completely change it. Don’t. (Oh, and btw, the biggest naysayer will most likely be you as you write the book! Be warned, and keep that Negative Nellie persona out of the room!)  Wouldn’t you have liked to been a fly on the wall when Freddie was writing “Bohemian Rhapsody”? I wonder if he ever thought to himself  “God this sucks. No one is ever going to get this. The critics will tear it apart. Why am I writing this?”

So go ahead.  Write what you want. Write without fear. Don’t write in a genre because it sells well. Write in a genre you love and love to read. Mix your rock with your opera and let it shine!  Throw in some clowns, some scientists, stir and mix. Make sure your work is as good as you can get it (but, um, good grammar IS a rule you should follow), give yourself a pat on the back when finished, and publish! Put your exciting and unique novel out there for the adoring public to judge.  You just never know what you’re going to get!

Good luck and best wishes to all!

Coming Next:  What to Expect When You're Expecting Critique Partners

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hi Friends:

I haven't posted in a long while. Mainly because what I was posting about before was my weight loss journey and well, it didn't go so hot. So, I've decided to change the direction of my blog, make this more about my writing journey,  and with that, I gave the site a redo!  What do you think?

Stay tuned for more posts. But, for now, and as always when I sit down at my computer, SOMEBODY who shall remain nameless, but has four paws, a curly tail and a really, really cute face, is bugging me to go out. Have a great evening!