Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book Giveaway/Guest Posts April 30, 2011

Melange Books is giving away several of its new releases tonight, including The Smell of Gas by Erin O'Riordan and Tit Elingtin! Melange authors Ruth J. Hartman, Bobbi Groover, Rie Sheridan Rose and Lewis Levite are blogging with me today at Nights of Passion. Our host is the incomparable C. Margery Kempe, not the historical mystic but the erotic writer featured in I Kissed a Girl. Stop by, leave a comment, maybe win the book!

You can also catch me guest-hosting the Weekend Creation Blog Hop at WordsInSync. Stop by and find some new favorites among the truly creative blogs, and read a new excerpt from The Smell of Gas.

Finally, come get your book geek on with me at Celebration of the Nerd.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, April 29, 2011

'An Exchange of Love' reviewed by Carol Upton

An Exchange of Love:
Animals Healing People in Past,
Present and Future Lifetimes

Madeleine Walker
O Books
Paperback, 2008, $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-84694-139-9
Available on Amazon

Reviewed by Carol M. Upton ~

The more I learnt, especially from horses, the more amazed I was at their insight into their owners and the deeper implications of their messages began to dawn on me; that there was an exchange, a two way healing. ~ Madeleine Walker

Equestrians are definitely embracing a myriad of ways to better understand their horses, whether to improve show performance or simply enjoy a more pleasant trail ride. In this book, U.K. horse and rider trauma consultant Madeleine Walker draws on her extensive knowledge to help readers gain insights into the links between past trauma / lives and present behavior.

Walker shares compelling true stories from her daily practice and she puts forth ideas that require the reader to see unlimited intuitive connection possibilities.

“When trust is established, even the most apparently aggressive and dangerous animal relaxes, and communication begins,” says Walker.

Walker can heal both horse and rider on many different levels and help us change what we see as ‘misbehavior’ in our animals. Rosie, a mare who was rescued just hours away from slaughter, could not be shoed or touched near her girth. After discerning a terrible past, Walker helped Rosie become a well-balanced saddle horse for the rest of her days.

Walker employs various forms of energy healing such as chakras, visualization, and soul retrieval to help discover emotional issues an animal may be carrying. Her central theme is that animals are our teachers and we have only to listen with open minds. There is so much we can do instead of giving up on a horse with challenging behavior. This book will appeal to all animal lovers, but particularly trainers and those presently involved in rescue.

Madeleine Walker works as an animal intuitive/healer, horse and rider trauma consultant, and empowerment coach for people. She will be offering workshops in Canada and the U.S. in 2011. Her newest book
The Whale Whisperer will be released in June 2011. For details of her clinics and courses, or to arrange a consultation, visit Madeleine at:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

K.C. Lauer's 'Bad Girl Gone Mom' is not your average recovery memoir

K.C. Lauer opens Bad Girl Gone Mom, her memoir of drug and alcohol addiction and recovery, with an author's note referencing James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. Lauer's harrowing and ultimately hopeful depiction of her earlier life may remind some of Frey's memoir, though Lauer attests she's done her best to fact-check where possible. Given the obstacles she's had to overcome, Lauer's memoir could be no one else's but her own.

Lauer was born with a cleft palate, a condition that wasn't discovered until after her parents left the hospital with her. Somehow her doctors wouldn't notice until Lauer's teen years that she was also born with vaginal agenesis, an underdeveloped vaginal canal. In Lauer's case, she had no vaginal opening. One had to be surgically created. Lauer writes poignantly of her sense of being a sexless being turned into an artificial woman, created expressly for the purpose of male pleasure. By the time she had her surgery at age 15, Lauer no longer considered herself a virgin; she and a boyfriend had been having interstitial intercourse without knowing any better. Still, she felt violated and offended at the thought of having to use a set of plastic vaginal dilators (dildos, essentially) until, as her doctors liked to put it, she got married.

She had already turned to drugs and alcohol to ease the pain of being different. After Lauer's surgery, she added promiscuity to her list of self-destructive behaviors. I don't mean that to sound negative toward teenage sexuality in general. Some teens have sex because they enjoy it or because they fall in love, but Lauer wasn't one of them. She seemed to be out to prove to the world that she was a "real" woman in the only way she could figure out how to. This led her into destructive relationships, two bad marriages, sexual abuse and generally being used.

As one can guess from the title, Lauer got pregnant and had a daughter, despite the uterine complications that are sometimes associated with vaginal agenesis. Her transformation was slow and, at times, painful, but eventually she transitioned from recovering addict to responsible parent.

Lauer suggests this book be shared with teens who might be headed down the same self-destructive path. It's not what would typically be considered a "young adult" book. It contains explicit depictions of sexual acts, including acts in the context of a Dominant-submissive relationship. However, mature teens who struggle with drug use, alcohol addiction or abusive relationships may relate to Lauer and learn from her experience.

The best pull-out quote from Bad Girl Gone Mom is this one: "I already knew that I loved words, but I discovered that I loved words about sex even more."

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this e-book from the author in exchange for this review. I was not otherwise compensated.

This is an affiliate link:

The Forever Fight: On Drugs, Alcohol and the Cycle of Addiction by K.J. Gordon. $0.99 from
Whether you are struggling, or have a love one that is, reading this guide will help you to better understand what addiction is, how drugs and alcohol effect the body, as well as Addiction Recovery options based on recent studies from 2015 done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Health, and the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Art, Caramel Corn and Murder with Jodi Webb (guest post)

“I bet you could kill somebody with that wooden oar.”

My teenage daughter, accustomed to my murderous musing, practiced the “I’m not with her--I don’t even know who she is” tactic by silently moving away from me and staring off into the distance as we stood in line for the most delicious caramel popcorn at the beach. But the man in front of us in line was not ready for murder questions as he waited for his snack. He casually glanced back at me, eyeing me from my flip flops to my sunglasses, perhaps checking for dangerous weapons. All I had was a plastic caramel corn bucket, ready for refilling. I smiled, hopefully in a non-crazy and non-threatening manner. Maybe not. He hustled his wife closer to the group in front of them in the long, slow moving line.

I’m writing a murder mystery. It all hinges on the history of some very interesting characters and an unusual piece of art. The murder itself is standard stuff…the church deacon is bonked over the head with a heavy wooden picture frame. As I’ve been editing this story it occurred to me that next time it would be fun to have a really outrageous murder. So lately I’ve been seeing murder everywhere and testing out the possible scenarios on my family. Verbally, of course.

Finally it’s our turn out the caramel corn window. I shove our container at the frantic looking college kid and, instead of moving on to the pick-up window, pause.
“Can I ask you a favor?” I can see my daughter’s eye roll heavenward.

The college kid stops, holding my container. “What?” Favors are not something he’s used to dealing with on the job.

“I’ve been writing a murder mystery.”


“And it just occurred to me that those oars would make a perfect murder weapon.” I point toward the three sweaty college kids behind him stirring gigantic vats of caramel and popcorn. He turns and looks. For what feels like a long time. Or maybe he’s just too freaked out to look back at me.

“So is it okay if I take a couple of photos of the place?”

“Huh?” He turns back. I’m waving my camera at him. He steps into a corner, leaving me a clear view. “Go for it.” So I do. Click, click, click. I can picture the metal shelving lining the walls tumbling noisily to the floor. A puddle of melted caramel slowly making its way across the tiled floor. A murderer sneaking out the only door in the place.

So tell me, when you read a murder mystery do you prefer a complicated backstory leading to an uninspired method of murder or a wild and crazy murder with a predictable motive?

Jodi Webb is still working on her murder mystery, when she isn’t organizing WOW Blog Tours at You can read about her writing adventures as well as her reviews and giveaways of books at Words by Webb. This week she’s giving away FM for Murder by Patricia Rockwell and Twice A Spy by Keith Thompson.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Post Blogged by an Idiot, Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Melange Books has released The Smell of Gas, an erotic, pulp-style crime thriller by your humble author and her husband Tit Elingtin. It's available now in print and e-book formats. I don't want to blog about it here, though. I already blogged about it today on Breaking In Before Breaking Down. I would rather blog about...breakfast.

It was a fine, sunny morning in my home town this morning, so Tit Elingtin walked over to our usual breakfast spot, then went on a 3-mile walk along the river. I had the pancake special, chocolate chip pancakes. Delicious. Along with the chunks of candy in my breakfast, I was also treated to a hunk of eye candy, a guy at a table across from us who looked just like Sam Worthington. (I wish I had a Hunk du Jour photo to link to, but somehow HdJ has managed to miss the Aussie stunner.) Well, almost just like - this guy's hair was a little redder.

Many of you will remember Sam Worthington from Avatar. I like to remember him from Terminator: Salvation, because, well, I just like to think about Christian Bale.

I also like to remember Sam Worthington's interpretation of MacBeth. Those who love Claire and Leo in the contemporary telling of Romeo + Juliet (may Pete Postlethwaite rest in peace - best Friar Laurence ever!) will enjoy the 2006 version of MacBeth starring Worthington. I like the sexy, redheaded Scottish witches. They're like a trio of soothsaying Shirley Mansons.

This weekend I have rented, but have not yet watched, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead. Should be a good one, though. It has Hamlet, vampires and a score by Sean Lennon. So far, the best film take I've seen on the Hamlet story remains Royal Deceit, with Gabriel Byrne, Kate Beckinsale and Christian Bale. Not just Christian Bale, but a NAKED TEENAGE Christian Bale. Best Shakespearean version? I like Ethan Hawke's attempt. Julia Stiles is a particularly charming Ophelia.

Do not get me started on the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet. I will no longer watch films with that anti-Semitic, misogynistic douchebag. Except maybe Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome; Mel is canceled out by Tina Turner, feminist icon supreme and possible reincarnation of ancient Egyptian woman-pharaoh Hatshepsut.

Sooooo anyway, Sam Worthington's redder-haired doppelganger sat in the restaurant, eating sausages off a fork in a way that would make an erotica writer with an active imagination think impure thoughts. In stepped a cute woman with a ponytail, approximately Sam 2's age, and I thought they would make a good couple. They would have adorable babies. Because, you know, babies are what you're supposed to be thinking about when it's a warm spring day, you're surrounded by egg and bunny decorations and everybody's getting ready to celebrate Ostara.

I would like to have some brilliant post connecting the Pagan celebration of Ostara with Jewish Passover and Christian Easter, since Passover was this week and it is Easter weekend. I don't. I have this, a post blogged by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (I promise you a worthy Beltane post on May 1.) Buy a copy of The Smell of Gas!

Friday, April 22, 2011

'Spirit of the Horse: The New Myths of Equus' reviewed by Carol Upton

Forgive me for being a total 8-year-old girl for a moment, but is this not the most beautiful book cover you've seen all day? I'm a little biased, though. I wasn't raised around horses myself, being a city gal, but my grandfather's brother is a rancher. My father is a horseman, and though he lives in the city too he volunteers every week at Reins of Life, the nonprofit therapeutic horseback riding organization. He was once quoted in a magazine article as saying, "I love that place; horses are my own personal therapy. I learn something new every day and I'm challenged. Horses are so smart. They can even figure out how to open gates." ~Erin

Spirit of the Horse
The New Myths of Equus

Carole Devereux
Windhorse Press
Soft Cover, 2010, $24.00 U.S.
ISBN: 978-1-884422-24-9
Available at Amazon

Reviewed by Carol M. Upton:

Animals have the capacity and the power to expand their minds into extraordinary states of consciousness.  My horses have often shown their otherworldly journeys into The Dreamtime to me.  Buddy once told me that he can "feel" the hoof beats of his species running all over the Earth. ~ Carole Devereux

This graceful and timely book takes us on a transformational journey like no other, to the mystic world where the spirit of the horse resides. Carole Devereux introduces a rich language for concepts we may have felt while working with horses, but have been unable to articulate.

Animal-lovers know they can communicate, to one degree or another, with their animals, and there have been many books written on this subject. Devereux guides us beyond that familiar landscape, advancing our understanding of equine perspective and unlocking the endless possibilities present when we truly listen to what horses are saying.

Spirit of the Horse examines the early life of horses, from Eohippus through the Stone Age, and the ancient relationships horses had with human beings. Devereux reminds us that historically, we depended on communion with animals in order to live, much of that wisdom forgotten as we began to exploit resources and work within a paradigm known as “dominion over the earth”. Today, we are moving back to the lessons of nature, and animals, particularly horses, are here to help.

These lessons are evident in the hidden treasures of equus mythology as narrated by Devereux’s horses Buddy and Ellie. Through the myths, we begin to feel the emotional and spiritual impact of horses on our lives. Now, a series of guided visualizations gently assists us to explore our own stories of connection, truth, and healing.

One of the most revealing chapters covers the Yogic system of India, discussing how Yogic practices can help both horse and rider unite body and mind in their work together. We may already know that horses are experts at reading energy, but how do we use this knowledge in our riding? The answers are here.

Spirit of the Horse
demonstrates that horses can tell us much more than we have dreamed and can lead us along paths of continuous spiritual growth. Reading it stirs us emotionally, significantly uplifts our souls, and leaves us hungry for more.

Carole Devereux is an internationally known Animal Communicator, spiritual life coach and teacher. She has more than fifteen years experience counseling thousands of people and their animals across North America and Europe. Visit Carole at and learn more about Spirit of the Horse at:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

'The Smell of Gas' Virtual Book Tour

On April 23, 2011, Melange Books (formerly Midnight Showcase) will release the erotic crime thriller The Smell of Gas, co-written by Erin O'Riordan and Tit Elingtin. We launched the first sneak peek at Chris Redding's blog on March 28. On April 26, the Smell of Gas Virtual Book Tour kicks into high gear. The Virtual Book Tour is still adding dates, so look for updates soon. The tour schedule so far:

Tuesday, April 26 - De's Stories

Friday, April 29 - Jen Wylie's Blog

Friday, April 29 through Sunday, May 1 - Words in Sync

Saturday, April 30 - Nights of Passion (with other Melange authors!)

Thurs. May 5 - Silver and Grace (for a change of pace, a Mother's Day post)

Saturday, May 7 - Jenny Hilborne's blog

Tuesday, May 31 - Tour wrap-up at AO Bibliosphere

Date TBD:
An Author's Tale
My Hot Sex Storys

Monday, April 18, 2011

An interview with author Judith Marshall

Judith, do you have pleasant memories of living in Napa Valley? My parents moved from St. Helena to Concord, CA, before I was two so I don’t remember being born there. But I only live an hour away and I love visiting as often as possible. I love driving by the old house and wondering what my life would have been like had we stayed. It’s such a beautiful little town.

What has been the most significant book you've read (or listened to, if you were a small child) in your life? I loved The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon. I’ve probably re-read it ten times over the years.

How did it feel to win the Jack London Prize? I remember walking into the conference and seeing my name listed as the winner of the fiction category at the registration desk. I had to cover my mouth to keep from squealing with joy. I’d always known I had a good story to tell, but having a panel of expert judges agree was amazing. I hardly remember anything about the rest of the day.

Please tell us about the moment you found out your book had been optioned as a movie. About four months after the book was released, I received an email with a subject of “Your Book.” The message read, “I am on the board of the Palm Springs Women in Film board and received an email press release about your book. I am also a producer and would love to read your book, I will be ordering it from Amazon.” I immediately replied that I would be happy to send a complimentary copy. The producer, who is a woman, took the book on vacation in February and when she returned, she emailed me saying, "I love the book and think that it could make a very interesting screenplay. Kind of like The Big Chill meets It’s Complicated."

The actual offer came through on April 1, 2010. Thank goodness it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke!

When can we expect to see Staying Afloat come out? The book is finished and I’ve written several drafts of a query letter, but I’m still deep in promoting my first novel, so haven’t had time to start the querying process. I may even decide to independently publish. We’ll see.

Have you decided what you're going to write as a third novel? I’ve just begun Bitter Acres, the story of four women in the 60’s who live on the same suburban street and are best friends. I’m only on chapter two, so I don’t know where the story is going yet. That’s the fun of writing fiction. I love seeing where the characters will take the story.

What's the #1 piece of advice you give other writers? To be a successful writer you must have passion, persistence, and patience. You also must be willing to market and promote once your book is published. Just as a parent’s responsibilities don’t end with giving birth, an author’s responsibilities don’t end with publication. The child must be raised and a book must be marketed.

Do you read for pleasure? If so, what kind of books do you like to read? I read a variety of fiction. Right now, I’m reading Up From the Blue by Susan Henderson, which I’m finding hard to put down, and I just finished Midnight Champagne by A. Manette Ansay, which I loved -- quirky, dark and beautifully written. For me, it’s important to keep reading. It makes me a better writer.

What are your views on chocolate? If it's something you like, do you prefer milk, dark or white chocolate?
I LOVE chocolate! I have a piece of dark chocolate almost every night after dinner, preferably with a little red wine. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like chocolate.

Erin O'Riordan and Pagan Spirits would like to thank Judith Marshall, author of HUSBANDS MAY COME AND GO BUT FRIENDS ARE FOREVER, for taking time out for this interview.

This is an affiliate link:

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Writing is far too often the unachievable dream or the dirty little secret of too many writers. The wonders of the Internet and the self-publishing revolution means not only that your dreams are closer than ever before it also means so are the distractions. This workbook sets out to get you to do the work needed to stop talking or wishing you were writing and instead actually write.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Exploring the Animal/Autism Connection" by Sandra J. Gerencher

Children with disabilities are my inspiration. It's real life. It's what goes on every day. The people in my life inspire me such as my adopted son with autism and my special education students at school. I was once told my son, Terry, would never speak in full sentences. Yet he speaks to our dog, Chance, as if he can understand him.

We don't know what's going on inside an autistic child's brain, but there's something different in my son’s thought processes when he’s talking to the dog. When I stand outside his room, I hear him asking the dog, “Are you hungry? Do you want to play?” It helps him cope with some of the issues he's dealing with.

I think animals can sense the good in people. He is more animated with the dog. They play together constantly. When Terry misbehaves I tell him, ”Chance is sad.” Then I ask, "What would Chance want you to do?" He always wants to make Chance happy. When I put it in terms of the dog, he responds right away.

My goal is to make children aware that there are kids with special needs. Kids nowadays aren't exposed to people with disabilities. Being naturally inquisitive, they need to be taught why others are different. As an educator and mother, if I've accomplished that goal with one child, then that more than satisfies me.


Sandra J. Gerencher is the author of the children’s book Second Chance: How Adoption Saved a Boy with Autism & His Shelter Dog. (Read an excerpt here. A PBS Kids Recommended title.)

Gerencher is a special education teacher in Pennsylvania's Bangor Area public school system. Over the past 20 years she has worked with children and adults with special needs in such areas as counseling, Behavior Specialist Consultation, behavioral research, crisis intervention and abuse therapy. Sandra graduated from Lehigh University with a M.Ed. in Special Education (2004) and from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia with an M.S. in Counseling Psychology (1999).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Repurposing Content: A Strategy for Book Authors

A Guest Post by Tom Von Deck

Using a simple MP3 recorder, you can have yourself a book, an audiobook, an ebook or even an email correspondence course in as little as a few hours. Repurposing content means to use the same content for more than one media type. If you already have written a book, then repurposing your book means to offer it as a CD, a CD box set, a digital download or a multimedia course.

Print books are typically priced according to the number of pages and whether they're hardcover or paperback. Your book, if you've written one, probably costs less than $20.00 USD retail. Other media types are not necessarily priced this way. Some authors create multimedia courses and charge hundreds of US dollars for such a course. Audiobooks are often worth more than books. The perceived value is higher even though the content is the same. This is why a lot of marketing gurus don't even write books, but instead create "courses". The course may include a book, but you won't be able to get the book separately on Amazon in some of these cases.

I'm a book guy, so I didn't go this route. I wrote a meditation book called Oceanic Mind - The Deeper Meditation Training Course. This book began as both a print book and a PDF ebook. Since writing it in 2009, I have repurposed the content into several ebook formats and have partially repurposed it into a 400 minute long audio course.

The Deeper Meditation Audio Course is not an audiobook version of the book. It has a different target audience, and the content is more secular, straight laced and business friendly. However, most of the outline for the audio course came directly from the table of contents for the book.

I used a free sound editor and MP3 recorder with a cheap $20 microphone and produced 65 MP3 files. The hardest part of the repurposing process was that the microphone turned out to be way too sensitive. The MP3s were filled with salivary sounds and breathy sounds coming from my mouth. The sound editing process mainly involved chopping out these fraction-of-a-second sounds. This editing process eventually shrunk my audio course from roughly 8.5 hours to 6 hours and 40 minutes.

The next step was to create 48kbps versions of each of the files for smaller file sizes, and add the correct meta information properties to each of the 65 files, I recorded the course at 128 kilobits per second which is good for making CD's without music. The 48kbps version is for digital download. I wouldn't recommend lowering this bit rate any lower than 48 or else your voice may sound like an alien robot.

After this, I turned it into a ZIP file so that people could purchase and download the course online. I used to create the zip file. Now, people can download the course for $39.95 USD and listen to it instantly. Repurposing my book's content allows me to charge more than double what the book costs. Customers usually get a free copy of the book with the audio course, which leaves me with $25-$32 when all is said and done. This is still a lot more than the total retail cost of the book.

There are many resources and shopping carts to sell your repurposed digital content through your own website. Popular ones include EJunkie and Payloadz. Both of these will run you at least $15 USD per month, but there are alternatives. I use which only keeps the money from the 20th sale of an item. That's their 5% cut. The only downsides are that there is less flexibility with handing out massive amounts of coupon codes, and the customer database has less features. There are other options out there, too. Choosing a shopping cart system is a matter of prioritizing your desired features.

There are resources available on the internet to repurpose your content into a CD or a CD box set. CreateSpace and CD Baby both come to mind. CreateSpace is great for box sets, although your royalties are dismally low if you sell them on Amazon through CreateSpace. CD Baby is more set up for single CD's, and there's a slightly less than modest setup fee for each individual CD.

Ebooks are usually the biggest pain in the butt when it comes to repurposing content. There are many online retail outlets, other than your own website, to sell ebooks. Each one has different demands for formatting your book. If you typed your book with a word processing program like Microsoft Word, the formatting of your book will not be fit for some of these outlets. You'll have to use special software to reformat it in Epub, Mobi and other formats.

Luckily, you can refurbish your content into multiple ebook formats in one shot by publishing with Smashwords. Follow their style guide closely when you reformat your book. This will make your ebook worthy for distribution in iBooks, Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble's NookBooks store, the Sony Store and others. Smashwords will only take a small cut of the royalties. They are very generous. The only downside is that you get paid quarterly.

Another method of repurposing nonfiction content is membership site coaching programs. Members may pay you a monthly subscription fee to gain access to a site which offers useful content such as video, audio, webpages, chat opportunities with the author and emails. Sometimes the content on such sites is time released so that the student gets a little bit at a time over a certain time interval.

This article can go on forever. hopefully a few lightbulbs went on above your head and you're ready to repurpose your content in creative ways. Enjoy the creativity phase because the repurposing process may become tedious at times. Try to make it a fun journey all the way through. The long term rewards that come from repurposing content will likely be worth the effort.

Tom Von Deck is a corporate meditation trainer, international speaker and author of Oceanic Mind - The Deeper Meditation Training Course. Tom specializes in making meditation a much easier and more customized process for busy people and everyone else from all religious backgrounds and lifestyles. Tom's main site is His book and blog can be found through the links below.
Tom's meditation book
stress management blog

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Murder and Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a guest post by Nancy Lynn Jarvis.

Why would a Realtor turn to a life of murder and chocolate chip cookies?

I’m a real estate agent who is having so much fun killing people that I’ll probably never sell another house. I never planned to kill anyone and never intended to write anything other than enticing advertising copy for my listings, but in 2008 when the real estate market tanked and I couldn’t dispassionately tell clients their homes might not sell for what they owed on their mortgage, I decided to run away from the too-real world of foreclosures and short sales, take a time out, and pretend to be retired.

I quickly got bored and missed all the interesting people I met in real estate. Maybe because of that or maybe because my fallback mode was avoiding reality, as a purely time-filling intellectual exercise, I began to toy with the idea of writing a mystery.

The logic and careful structure of mysteries has fascinated me since the days when I sat in a wicker rocking chair at my grandmother’s house and read Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, sworn to secrecy in case my mother wouldn’t approve of a young girl reading something other than Nancy Drew.

Writing a mystery would be like solving a logic puzzle—Sudoku on steroids— and if that wouldn’t be fun enough, mystery writing would give me an excuse to delve into a world of fascinating but unsettling things like decomposition, accidental mummification, and how ligature strangulation and death by hypothermia work. Researching those topics would be akin to being a four-year-old playing with rubber dinosaurs: the game would be enjoyable, and I could control what might otherwise give me nightmares.

The idea of writing mysteries kept getting more appealing. I could take my twenty-plus years of situations—that’s a polite term for all those things that happen in the world of real estate that makes agents say, “I could write a book”—and use them for background. I could create a real estate agent protagonist named Regan McHenry who could be kind of like me, only younger, thinner, and more daring, and get back in touch with my favorite agents, clients, and associates by using them as inspiration for characters.

The murders in my books are made up, but the real estate stories are real—yes, Realtors do come across bodies in the course of doing business—so a Realtor who solves mysteries isn’t as far-fetched as it might seem.

And the cookies? Well, Realtors often bake cookies at open houses to entice buyers. It’s an old trick-of-the-trade. In the first book I wrote, The Death Contingency, Regan baked homemade cookies at an almost lethal open house. In Backyard Bones she baked cookies to take as comfort food to a client accused of murder. After Regan’s cookies appeared in two books, there had to be a recipe. When people visit my website they can not only read the beginnings of the books, they can also pick up a free recipe for “Mysterious Chocolate Chip Cookies.” The cookies make a cameo appearance in Buying Murder and a mention in The Widow’s Walk League which will be out in time for summer beach reading.


Books are available in standard and large print and for Kindle and other e-readers at Amazon and for the Nook at Pubit!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Child's Play - Caring for the Environment

By Christy Baldwin, children's author of Care for Creation

Teaching children the value of the Earth and all of nature is hard in today’s “tech-crazy” world. It is hard to pry kids away from their game systems, televisions and computers long enough to enjoy the great outdoors.

I say, “Get the kids outside and they will find lots of ways to enjoy themselves, and maybe even get some fresh air and exercise too.” My husband and I started taking our kids to State and National Parks and other “natural” locations very early. We love to point out interesting trees, listen for odd sounds, and walk slowly to try to observe wild life in its natural habitat. Our kids know the names of many plants and animals that others don’t, simply because they have been able to observe them in their natural habitat.

We feel it is very important to teach kids about the who, what, when, where and why of nature so that they will appreciate when they are around it. We also feel is it important to teach them various ways to protect the nature and resources. It is crucial that we think about not only leaving the outdoors as we found them but also what we can do to improve how we found the area.

For example, when you see trash, pick it up. But if you see a dirty corner of the street with grass or simple dirt, ask the owner (town or appropriate officials) if you can clean it up and plant a tree or flowers there. I venture to guess you will not be told no. Many people don’t slow down enough to notice nature, much less to care for it.

My book, Care for Creation, gives parents and teachers an easy way to not only share nature with kids but also to share why it is important to care for the Earth. I hope that my book will inspire entire families and classes to spend more time outdoors looking for the beauty and brainstorming ways they can help make it more beautiful!

Examples of things you can do as a family or group include trash pick up days, flower or tree planting days, energy saver days, education days, nature walks, scavenger hunts, or even water conservation days. Recycling programs are also another way to reduce waste, recycle what can be reused and to educate the public on the effects of throwing everything into landfills.

Still have questions about ways that you and your family or class can help? Contact me via my website ( and I will share resources I have found during my research for this book. One website I have found to be especially helpful is This website shares simple ways to obtain reasonable results.

10 Ways Your Family Can Save Energy, Resources & Money

#10 Take out screens in windows and seal any open areas

#9 Use a heavy blanket or draft cover around the edges of exterior doors

#8 Enjoy the nicer days by turning off heater and opening up the house

#7 Leave oven door open after baking to allow heat in the room (Caution: keep children away from the stove, out of the room if possible)

#6 Collect rain water to use for flushing, washing or watering

#5 Insulate your attic with extra blankets or purchase insulation

#4 Wrap pipes with foam sleeves or cover with blankets

#3 Cover your water heater with a blanket to keep warm

#2 Play in the yard rather than going out to the movies

#1 Make your own yummy treats from fresh produce rather than buying it in the stores

About the Book:
Children learn to protect the environment and respect nature through recycling, home energy conservation and neighborhood clean-ups. Through accompanying Bible verses, they are encouraged to be responsible stewards of God's creation.

"Christy Balwin's Care for Creationn is a charming story that teaches children how to care for our environment in a fun and loving way. The colorful illustrations and inspiring verses from the Bible will delight both children and adults. The book is a powerful tool for families that shows how living responsibly can make a difference in our world!" - Tony Townsley, inspiration for Three Cups

"Care for Creation by Christy Baldwin backs up the modern theme of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle with the Biblical messages passed down from our Creator. From the time of Adam and Eve, men and women have been called to care for the Lord’s creations. In this meaningful and inspiring book, children learn how easy and important it is to do their part." - Cheryl C. Malandrinos, author of Little Shepherd

Book web site:

Christy Baldwin Facebook:

Tribute Books website:

Tribute Books Facebook:

Tribute Books Twitter:

Christy Baldwin Bio:
Writing has been a passion of Christy's since she was very young. As a child, she loved to write stories for her grandfather and poems just for fun. She lives in Mason, Ohio with her family and is active in church, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts and volunteering with various organizations. Christy has a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Cedarville University and a master's degree in Special Education from the University of Scranton. She is a stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her kids and being involved in their schools. Her previous children's titles include Nine Things Nathan Noticed at Night and Remembering Wilma.

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Visionary Kids: Steve Jobs by Sara Abraham. $5.99 from
The Visionary Kids series invites children to read inspirational stories about some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and innovators. The first book in the series is a colorfully illustrated rhyming book that follows the life of Steve Jobs, from his adoption at an early age, to dropping out of school and building a world-changing technology out of his garage.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"How to Finally Write Your Novel This Year" by Wendy Bailey

So many of us have fantastic ideas for a new novel. When a creative and unique idea strikes us, we become consumed with the possibilities and promises that are offered by writing a book. By writing a profound novel, you can change the way your reader thinks, influence the world around you, spread your personal values and ideals, and of course earn a bit of well-earned money for your efforts.

So why is it that most of these fantastic ideas never evolve into physical books? In truth, most people are simply too busy with the tasks of their everyday lives to worry about writing a novel. Although some people are able to accomplish some light writing in their spare time, most of us need dedicated work time in order to accomplish our literary masterpieces. It can be nearly impossible to squeeze such time into our busy schedules.

Thankfully, by following a few rules of thumb, you can help yourself to locate the time and the motivation that you need in order to complete your novel. The ideas are already there in your head; it is simply a matter of transferring them to your computer. To finally write your novel, you must simply:

• Create an outline
• Make a work schedule and stick to it
• Power through frustration and difficulties

Outlining Your Piece Helps You Visualize Your Goals

Some writers prefer to have their entire stories mapped out before they begin the writing process, while others like to just barge ahead and see where their characters take them. However, whatever your writing style, you need to have some sort of physical idea of where you want your story to lead the reader. Perhaps you want your main character to accomplish a certain goal or learn a valuable lesson. Even if your outline is very vague, it will be beneficial in managing your time and preventing you from becoming stalled during the writing process.

Creating a Work Schedule

Many writers find it beneficial to have a designated time every day that is devoted solely to their novel. This does not have to be a major commitment. You could choose to write for just fifteen minutes when you wake up in the morning, at your lunch hour, or before you go to bed. Even if you are not able to make time for more than a few minutes of writing, some progress is better than none at all, and sticking to a set schedule will ensure that you never drop the writing process.

Stick to It!

In addition, you should always ensure that you accomplish something palpable during your writing time. Even if you are completely drained of ideas, you should not simply stare at your computer screen while you should be writing. Give your characters actions and thoughts despite the fact that you are not sure where they will lead. You never know; what seemed to be an unimportant exchange between two characters could later evolve into an important component of your story. You can always edit out irrelevant text later on.

Read more from Wendy Bailey on the Adderall Side Effects website

Friday, April 8, 2011

"Writers Block 101: Three Ways to Get Over It" by Haley Stokes

This guest post was originally published at Triumphal Writing

Okay, maybe that's false advertising and this isn't the one and only cure. There are as many reasons for writer's block as there are genres. But out of everything I've ever tried, this seems to be the key.

Or as Don Draper once told Peggy Olsen: Just think about it. Deeply. Then forget it. And an idea will jump up in your face.

Often what we call writer's block isn't anything of the sort. Your brain needs a chance to process what it knows, to build a network of connections, to consider problems from multiple angles. Sometimes that means that everything stalls, and you can't think of the next word. Or you don't have an "in" for an analysis you need to write. Or you've got a story on the tips of your fingers, waiting to pour out of you, but you don't quite have the beginning.

Thinking about what you need to write, what you plan to commit to paper, and where you want to start is a good thing. Stressing, obsessing, dreading, and finally working yourself into a frenzy of anxiety and disappointment is a bad thing.

So think about it. And then do something else for awhile--an hour, a day, maybe a week. All of the procrastination tactics you love so much, as every writer does? Now is the perfect chance to indulge.

Don't Stop Writing
Don't break your writing routine. If you write for an hour every night, still use that hour, even if you have to trash everything you produce. One day the writer's block will be gone, and when it finally lifts, you want to be there and ready to work. Write something outside of your typical genre or purpose. This past month, I couldn't find a story anywhere. I couldn't hear my characters, I couldn't think of a plot. I focused on writing non-fiction and blogging, so every day I could tell myself "It's fine, you're still writing. Don't worry about the other stuff."

Introduce Something New to Your Life
In the past two days, I found my voice and my characters again, and I already have 7000 words on a new project. In the past three days, I've introduced new music into my life, using Pandora and to find artists I either didn't know or didn't know well enough. Now I've acquired albums by Radiohead, Florence and the Machine, Interpol, and Arcade Fire. I know, I know, hardly new acts, but theses albums are new to me. This isn't a coincidence. Finding new books, new music, and new movies always helps me. Sometimes just varying my shopping routine or introducing new food into my diet will help push me out of a rut.

Haley Stokes is the author of Put the Body on the Slab: The Anatomy of College Writing. She edits at Arch Editing Services.

This is an affiliate link:

Celebrity Authors’ Secrets - The World’s Greatest Living Authors Reveal How They Sell Millions of Books by Stephanie Hale. $12.99 from
Twelve of the world's greatest living authors reveal their tips for writing a book that sells over a million copies in Celebrity Authors' Secrets. A must-have guide - filled with publishing and book marketing info - for aspiring writers, authors, publishers, editors, writing coaches, creative writing tutors and anyone who loves books. Find out how to make your book stand out from the masses!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Guest Post - "Bullying" by Children's Author Larry Peterson

Bullying---what to do? I do not have a Ph.D. in child psych or anything like that. I am a parent, grandparent, former little league coach and a writer who used to be a construction worker in NYC. My credentials on the topic of bullying were earned in the “school of hard knocks” having learned from the old time teachers whose names were, experience & common sense, although it seems common sense has been forcibly retired and replaced by a no-sense guy called zero tolerance. I digress.

First of all, we are all unique. But my experience has taught me that the kids who wind up being bullied invariably feel they are “more different” than their peers and do not feel good about themselves. They hate their nose, their eyeglasses, their hair, maybe their parent’s car is “old” and they are embarrassed being seen in it. It starts there and the bully will sense it. Why are some kids easier targets for a bully than others?

The first line of defense against the bullies of the world is a suit of armor called self worth and self respect. This comes from the parent(s). This is CRUCIAL. A child can and must be taught that being different is OK. When they begin their journey outside the home (which often times starts in a day care center) they may be ready to defend who they are. If they are not prepared they are easy prey to the bullies of the world who will sense it and attack. So parents, teach by word and deed. Help the needy, say HI to a homeless guy, visit a rehab center where kids who are “different” are being treated. The preparation for the battle all starts at home. If you suspect your child is having a problem with a bully, ask him/her straight out. Then voice your concerns with the school. Go on-line and access the plethora of info available. And—do not be afraid of using some good, old fashioned, common sense.

My book, Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes, published by Tribute Books, was released in the beginning of February. It deals with “differences” and has an interactive guide that can be implemented in a classroom setting or at home. It has received some wonderful reviews, especially from those who have children who are “different” (Diabetes, poor vision, cerebral palsy etc).

My site is, where you can check out the book and the reviews, etc.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Best wishes,
Larry Peterson
Larry Peterson Facebook

Slippery Willie Synopsis:
Willie Wiggles hates his slippery feet. He just slips, slides and spins all over the place. But what he hates even more are the special shoes that have been made for him that will help him to walk just like all the other kids. Willie thinks that they are the "stupidest, ugliest shoes in the whole world."

Discover how sometimes we worry about things about ourselves when actually there is nothing to worry about in the first place. Read an excerpt here.

"Adorable work!" - Tampa Tribune

Larry Peterson Bio:
Larry Peterson was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. As a freelancer, he has written many newspaper columns for local publications. Slippery Willie's Stupid, Ugly Shoes is his first children’s book. Peterson has lived in Pinellas Park, Florida for the past 28 years.

Larry is looking for readers to share their thoughts about accepting differences at

Erin O'Riordan's thoughts: I recommend this book for all kids ages 4-12. The drawings are wonderful, especially the one of Willie's mom chasing him with a butterfly net to try to get him to put on the shoes. The text is fun, never preachy, yet it still teaches a lesson about respecting people who are different.

Tribute Books provided me with a review copy of this book at no charge. I was not compensated for this opinion.

This is an affiliate link:

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The Visionary Kids series invites children to read inspirational stories about some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and innovators. The first book in the series is a colorfully illustrated rhyming book that follows the life of Steve Jobs, from his adoption at an early age, to dropping out of school and building a world-changing technology out of his garage.

Monday, April 4, 2011

"Ghostwriting - A Collaborative Experience" by Colleen McCarty

In school, we were all taught not to cheat. Don’t look off someone else’s paper, don’t pay someone else to write your essays, don’t copy and paste something from Wikipedia into your book report. We all know cheating is wrong. To a lot of authors in the past, the word ghostwriter was considered dirty because it felt like cheating. It feels as though, if you use a ghostwriter, you are being inauthentic. It feels like paying a nerdy kid to write your paper…it feels icky.

We at EMG are not in any way condoning cheating, but we do feel that the ghostwriting process is, quite often, misunderstood. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some authors who will pay a ghostwriter for a manuscript that the “author” will have no hand in producing, put their name on it and say, “I wrote that!” That’s not the kind of ghostwriting experience we are talking about here.

We deal with a lot of clients who know that they have an important, meaningful message inside them – but they simply lack the technical expertise to put it on paper. In this case, we recommend using a ghostwriter. The process looks much more like a meaningful partnership rather than having someone else do your homework for you. There’s no guilt or shame in the fact that not everyone can write. In fact, we’d much rather you embrace that fact and let us help you produce the quality book you envision instead of attempting to do it yourself when you’re not comfortable in the writing arena.

A true ghostwriter must possess the talents of a great actor, a great artist, and a great writer. Through interviews with the author, reading the author’s notes, blogs, post-its – anything and everything that helps them see how you tick – the ghostwriter begins to write through your voice. They put themselves in your position, as a great actor does with an intense role, and they create the book as if they were you.

You work together, chapter by chapter, producing your work. If something doesn’t feel right or sound like something you’d say, scrap it. No hard feelings here.

Sure sometimes along the way, a ghostwriter may add some flare and details to enhance the reader’s vision of the story. The truth may be “I first saw my wife at the movie theater,” and the ghostwriter will pen, “there she was, standing in line at the theater. Her red dress lit up ever so slightly by the lights from the marquee…” She is still your wife and she is still at the theater, but now the reader is engaged by the visual effect. Think of your ghostwriter as a collaborator on telling the greatest story in the world…yours.

By Colleen McCarty
Co-Owner, Expert Message Group

Colleen McCarty also represents Presenting Matters, specializing in Business Communication/Presentation Training, Speech Coaching and Media Training. Visit the Presenting Matters blog at

This is an affiliate link:

Celebrity Authors’ Secrets - The World’s Greatest Living Authors Reveal How They Sell Millions of Books by Stephanie Hale. $12.99 from
Twelve of the world's greatest living authors reveal their tips for writing a book that sells over a million copies in Celebrity Authors' Secrets. A must-have guide - filled with publishing and book marketing info - for aspiring writers, authors, publishers, editors, writing coaches, creative writing tutors and anyone who loves books. Find out how to make your book stand out from the masses!