Some news is a'coming...

Palo Duro Canyon

I know it's been a little, how should I say this?, quiet around the Swamp for the past few months, but there's a very good reason for it. Soon, I will be able to tell you the reason. Hopefully, this week. Going forward, news about my books will come first through a newsletter. You may remember I ran a contest a couple of months ago promoting it. If you didn't sign up for it at that time, now is the time to do it! I promised I wouldn't spam you and, true to my word, I haven't sent one since the contest. Now, it's four months from the release of STILLWATER, and news will be coming more frequently and I want you to hear it first!

To sign up for my newsletter, CLICK HERE.

And, watch your inbox for some exciting news! The banner picture above might be a hint. ;)

One more thing: 199 people have added STILLWATER to their Goodreads Want to Read shelf! Have you? If not, go over and be the one who puts it over the hump!

My Path to Getting Published Blog Tour

My workshop friend, Brooke,  started this pretty cool blog tour idea in a post for Carve Magazine. I volunteered to participate, though I am not going to tag five people. Feel free to post about your own path on your blog. 1.    Where are you on your publishing path?

I signed a contract with Skyhorse Publishing last month. My debut mystery novel, STILLWATER, will be published in hardback in October 2015.

2.    How long has it taken you to get there?

I started writing ten years ago. I attended my first writer's con in 2012, I signed with an agent in 2013 and signed a publishing deal in 2014.

3.    What’s your journey looked like thus far?

My mentor, Mark, told me recently I have done this whole publishing thing by the numbers. Finishing a book, getting an agent, getting a deal. It sounds like it was easy and painless and, if I'm honest, it probably has been an easier journey than many or most writers go through. Why? I don't know. It's not because I'm good at pitching or write a clear, gripping query letter. In fact, I'm pretty terrible at pitching and query letters. Don't even ask about synopses. My success has been a mix of talent, luck, perseverance and the confidence that, no matter how long it took, I would get published.

4.    What’s your future look like?

NYT Bestseller, baby! At least, that's the dream. Isn't it every writer's dream? Realistically, I want STILLWATER to sell well and for the second book to be picked up. I want the historical fiction novel my agent is submitting to publishers in the fall to be picked up. But, most of all, I want to continue to write, for people to read and enjoy my work.

Book Review: City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn

jasmine

There are a few things you can always count on with a Deanna Raybourn novel: a plucky heroine, stellar dialogue, wonderful descriptions, copious amounts of wit, a smouldering romance and a bit of history to ground it all in reality. City of Jasmine (★★★★) has all of that, as well as a textbook MacGuffin to keep the plot moving forward through the Syrian desert in 1920. Raybourne's greatest achievement might be always making me want to visit whatever setting she's selling. Since vacationing to Syria isn't an option right now, I'll just round up some friends and head to the hooka bar down the street. What I loved most about City of Jasmine, though, were the little connections to her Lady Julia Grey series, as well as her Africa novel, A Spear of Summer Grass. I can get easily bored by a series - the same characters doing the same thing over and over - but connecting her books through past characters (Tarquin March from Lady Julia, Ryder from A Spear of Summer Grass) gives readers the series they crave while keeping the characters, plots and settings fresh. Plus, sussing out all of the connections is like hunting for little Easter eggs. If I'm not much mistaken, Raybourn obliquely mentioned Nicholas Brisbane in the City of Jasmine denouement. These little tidbits make me want to go back and re-read her previous novels to see what other connections there might be. (It is also going to drive me crazy if I don't figure out how old Julia and Brisbane would be in 1920. Are they still alive? For someone who hates math, I am constantly trying to figure out ages and dates in novels. It makes my head hurt, but it weirdly makes me love a novel more.)

If I had one complaint, and this is a complaint I have for almost all Historical Fiction novels: there wasn't a map! Publishers listen up: It should be the Golden Rule of Historical Fiction to include maps, especially in novels where there's a journey. Please?

In short, if you are looking for a fun read with enjoyable characters doing adventurous things in lush settings, you can never go wrong with a Deanna Raybourn novel and City of Jasmine fits the bill nicely.

(I received an Advanced Reader Copy of City of Jasmine through a contest on Raybourn's blog.)

Book Review - City of Women by David Gillham

city of womenSynopsis: Whom do you trust, whom do you love, and who can be saved? It is 1943—the height of the Second World War—and Berlin has essentially become a city of women. Sigrid Schröder is, for all intents and purposes, the model German soldier’s wife: She goes to work every day, does as much with her rations as she can, and dutifully cares for her meddling mother-in-law, all the while ignoring the horrific immoralities of the regime. But behind this façade is an entirely different Sigrid, a woman who dreams of her former lover, now lost in the chaos of the war. Her lover is a Jew.

But Sigrid is not the only one with secrets.

A high ranking SS officer and his family move down the hall and Sigrid finds herself pulled into their orbit.  A young woman doing her duty-year is out of excuses before Sigrid can even ask her any questions.  And then there’s the blind man selling pencils on the corner, whose eyes Sigrid can feel following her from behind the darkness of his goggles.

Soon Sigrid is embroiled in a world she knew nothing about, and as her eyes open to the reality around her, the carefully constructed fortress of solitude she has built over the years begins to collapse. She must choose to act on what is right and what is wrong, and what falls somewhere in the shadows between the two.

In this page-turning novel, David Gillham explores what happens to ordinary people thrust into extraordinary times, and how the choices they make can be the difference between life and death.

It seems the new trend in World War II historical fiction is to show how everyday Germans lived through the ordeal, to illustrate that not all Germans were high-stepping SS officers, or informants or persecuted Jews. Some were normal people, trying to keep their heads down and their families safe under a repressive regime. How well  this new paradigm is being received I don't know. I suppose it depends on your relationship to the events.

It is this area of the war that David Gillham mines in City of Women (★★★★). It is a very good book. Well-written and tense with expectation. Sigrid Schröder is a well-rounded character, full of faults, passion and intelligence. I would absolutely recommend City of Women to readers who enjoy WWII fiction. However, what kept me from giving it five stars (and made me consider giving it three) is I felt Gillham chose the safe route with creating Sigrid by giving her a Jewish lover (which provides her motivation for helping the Jews, I suppose) and by not giving her children. When she decides to help, she is only risking her own life, and the life of the mother-in-law she hates and the husband on the Eastern Front she doesn't love. The tension comes from the readers innate knowledge of the Nazi regime instead of fear for innocent life, because Sigrid isn't innocent. She has been complicit by burying her head in the sand for years. Yes, she opens her eyes and decides to help and, of course the reader wants Sigrid to succeed. But wouldn't the risk have been greater, and meant more, if she put her own children in danger, or at the very least, people she loved?

A few years ago my book club had a discussion about World War II, the Jews and what we would all do if a similar situation arose today, in America. Of course, we all want to believe we would do the right thing, stand up for the oppressed and do whatever we could to save them. Who wouldn't want to be the hero to that story? But, truth and reality are murkier than fiction. Would you put your family in danger to save someone else or would you keep your head down and ignore the atrocities going on around you?  In Sigrid, Gillham tries to write that heroine and almost succeeds.

It's July! We are halfway to 2014 and it's National Ice Cream Month. Yea!

Actually, I'm not excited about 2014, but National Ice Cream month does excite me.  I wish it didn't because the pounds are creeping onto me again. They wouldn't if I would just Work Out like any sane forty something woman should do. But, I don't want to work out. Or run. Or eat better. I want to make ice cream and sit on my deck at 5 pm and drink a beer! Which is what I'm doing right now because it's 84 degrees at 5 pm on July 1 in Texas. That? Has never happened in my lifetime.

Hey, at least I'm drinking a Michelob Ultra.

Anyway. Three things are going to happen on the blog this month. One, I'm going to post every weekday. Two, I'm going to make ice cream and tell you all about it. Three, I'm going to read Historical Fiction and do a better job of writing reviews for each book. I'm going to have to if I want to post 23 times. I might even post about writing again since I haven't in a while. I've been a slacker for the entire month of June in the writing department but that stops tomorrow! I need to do a little revising of my MS then get back on the wagon with the sequel.

But, back to ice cream because, really. Ice Cream.

My first ice cream post will be about a fool proof, inexpensive chocolate ice cream recipe I found. Except nothing is fool proof when it comes to me and cooking. More on that later.

I want to find a banana pudding ice cream recipe because, really. Banana Pudding.

I also want to make Peach Ice Cream because, really. Peaches in the summer is nirvana.

What's  your favorite ice cream flavor? Do you make homemade ice cream? If not, why?

Also, unrelated to any of this: Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon was the stupidest movie I've ever seen, and I've seen my fair share of stupid movies.