Guest Post

HAVE A BOOK TO PROMOTE? Lyrical Pens welcomes guest posts. Answer a questionnaire or create your own post. FYI, up front: This site is a definite PG-13. For details, contact cj

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Food for thought

cj Sez: To say the weather is sweltering where I live would be an understatement. Today’s heat index reached triple digits…something like 110°. Needless to say I was not outdoors.

The following is an excerpt from comments by someone defending about fifty percent of the U.S. population (i.e. potential buyers and readers of books), from the published comments of an author. Given the penchant for hateful posts and responses I’ve seen on the Internet, I choose to keep the combatants anonymous.

“The other nakedly called supporters of POTUS45 bigots, xenophobes, homophobes, misogynists, etc. on Twitter. So I called him out that if that sizable chunk of his reader base is that awful, would be (sic) be magnanimous returning their money for previous book purchases--hashtag, don't bite the hands that feeds you/sh*t where you eat."

cj Sez: I happen to believe authors don’t have to agree with their readers’ (or other authors’) choices, and vise versa. But offending potential buyers/readers with personal diatribes is like cutting off your nose to spite your face (seemed like an apt cliché). Publishing insults is not the way to increase readership. (It’s all about the marketing.)

"…authors MUST be personable, engaging, in tune with their audience(s), and just plain-out decent folks. These people PAY their royalties, and word-of-mouth will make or break an author when writers are their readers, too . . . and word ripples to non-writers about this or that author's sourness. In this age of social media, you cannot afford to be a nekkid jerk. If you're raking it in, okay; if you're not, don't. Just don't in general, but that's just me :-).”

cj Sez: I’ll admit, I have, on occasion, like the angry responder above, felt the need to respond to comments that ticked me off. I’ll write down my outrageous rant on a “mad pad.” (I like pressing the pen down hard onto the paper and leaving imprints on the page behind.) When I’ve gotten the anger out of my system, I put the mad pad aside for a while, then either edit out the anger and post an abbreviated response, or wad up the paper and don’t respond at all.

Have you had a similar encounter of feeling insulted in print--where the published word "seems" to carry more authority? How did you handle it? 

On a happier note, my grandson called this afternoon and invited me to dinner tonight. A spur-of-the-moment invitation that told me he was thinking about me. Now that he’s working, it was his treat. Love that kid.

Okay, that’s it for today. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


For great vacation reads, available on Amazon, pick up a copy of:

Deadly Star

Back of the book blurb: "cj petterson has crafted a tale of murder, espionage, and romance which builds to a dramatic and satisfying conclusion. With a gift for well-written dialogue and a deft touch at creating suspense, Ms. petterson delivers a must-read story in Deadly Star."  Rebecca Barrett 

Choosing Carter
Review: "Ms. petterson brings the drama with a cinematic adventure that weaves intrigue, peril and passion in the spectacular Colorado Mountains."--4.5 stars, InD'Tale Magazine

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

“Write what you know” means “write the truth”

Writers are always looking for formulas and rules to make their writing struggles go easier. Eight rules on this, ten tips on that, three on the other. In fact . . . 

   My take on that is, the more I familiarize myself with the different philosophies and “rules” of the various writing worlds (journalism, creative, non-fiction, et al.), the better I am able to write the truth about my characters…their personalities and their worlds. In a way, I am world-building for my novels, even though the characterizations are based on people I’ve met and emotions I’ve felt.

   Granted it's easier to write “what you know”—i.e. the truth—when we write about the people and places we know best. In my Choosing Carter novel, the setting is Dinosaur National Monument and the Yampa River that runs through it. And yes, I once did a five-day white-water rafting trip there. Even with that familiarity, I had to do more research to make sure I had the dialogue and sites correct. (Memories are notoriously faulty.)

   The following excerpt is from regional writer Judy Alter who specializes in her familiarity with Texas.

. . . “setting a book in a particular region (doesn’t) make a writer regional. It’s essential that the author absorb the setting so that rather than obviously telling, such things as geography, culture, food, and manners flow naturally. Otherwise, the background looks like those fake sets in so many grade B westerns.” 

   I’ll take Judy Alter’s advice one step further: Regions are made up of cities, and to write the truth about a city and its characters means the writer also needs to absorb the city setting and its language. That’s why Elmore Leonard’s books are so Detroit-authentic.

   I would never consider myself a regional writer, though not by choice, but by happenstance. Born in Texas and raised in Michigan, I currently live on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. (I guess I could do a decent job of characterizations and syntax of Detroiters.) As a native Texan, I do populate almost every story with a character from Texas, and now that I live in Mobile, Alabama, I people-watch intently. I want my new characters to have some authentic Southern attributes.

   I know a slew of excellent Old-South-regional writers; I also know I’ll never be that good. Writing things Southern is its own genre. There’s a humor and a dialogue cadence that are peculiar (and I mean that in the nicest way) to the South.
Ave of the Oaks, Spring Hill College, Mobile
   Whatever the genre (mystery, suspense, romance) or theme (cats, dogs, yoga, ecology) of the novel, the setting is all-important. How do you incorporate your setting and what you know into what you write?

Passing along information …..

Congratulations to the winners! The 2018 International Thriller Writers (ITW) Thrillerfest Award winners were announced at ThrillerFest XIII, July 14 in New York City, and now you have more books to add to your to-be-read pile:

Best Hardcover Novel
   Riley Sager —Final Girls
Best First Novel
   K.J. Howe —The Freedom Broker
Best Paperback Original Novel
   Christine Bell —Grievance          
Best Short Story
   Zoë  Z. Dean —Charcoal and Cherry  
       (Zoë beat out Lee Child) 
Best Young Adult Novel
   Gregg Hurwitz —The Rains 
Best eBook Original Novel
   Sean Black —Second Chance

Stop by for more information about the International Thriller Writers.
Sandra Seaman's excellent site, “My Little Corner” ( )  lists calls for submission to anthologies and tons of markets.
  Okay, that’s it for today. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


Judy Alter’s Murder at the Bus Depot, book 4 of her Blue Plate Café Mysteries series can be found on Amazon at   

For great vacation reads, don’t forget to pick up your copy of Deadly Star (
and Choosing Carter ( Available on Amazon. 

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Simon&Schuster Author Page =

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Deadlines, research, and rabbit holes

cj Sez:  I wish I could have begged, borrowed, or stolen some of Elmore Leonard’s discipline for writing. What started as necessity for him turned into habit when he became an established author.

“To support his family, he worked as a copywriter at an ad agency, where he developed his aversion to adverbs, and also his knack for brief, punched-up prose. He began a habit of waking at five a.m. and immediately starting to write -- not even putting the water on for coffee until he had something down on paper -- then going to work at the office, first in advertising and later writing educational films for the Encyclopedia Britannica.” (Source:

It used to be that I worked better when I had a short-term deadline. So, I thought if I gave myself a deadline, I’d have the incentive to keep going. Found out that’s not true because somehow I seem to know the deadline is self-imposed. (As if!) I manage to bury my deadline under weeks of procrastination that I called “research.” (Leonard paid others to do his research.) It seems that the more I research, the less creativity I have. And if I get bogged down in facts, the stories will suffer (I’m working on three manuscripts right now).

Once I have an idea for a story, research is what I do first. But, of course, I can't anticipate every need, and I head back to Google regularly. Too regularly and that's when I disappear into a rabbit hole of information. I'm trying to curtail those random distractions by making notes that I can research the next morning, before I start working again. In fact, last night I made a note or two when I went to bed . . . I get a lot of good ideas just before or just after I fall asleep. That’s why I keep a pad of paper and a pencil on the table next to the bed. 

Sundays are for family and etc., so I won’t be sitting in front of this computer for very long but Monday that’s when I’ll start writing …right after I feed all the critters, including me, weeding and picking up pine cones, keeping a doctor’s appointment, doing a bit of housecleaning, watching the news at 5, 6, and 6:30, making supper, doing dishes. I promise you I won’t be making any deep dives down research rabbit holes. (If I promise myself, I’ll probably find some rabbit hole in which to disappear.)

I suppose some of you might say I’ll still be procrastinating. Nah, it’s just delayed discipline ‘cause once I get all those housekeeping things done, I’ll be sure to start writing on Tuesday. 

That’s all for now, but how about you? When do you get your best ideas? How do you conquer the blank page in front of you? How do you stay out of the research rabbit holes?

That’s it for this post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

Another 5-star Amazon review for Deadly Star…a click on the cover picture will take you directly to Amazon to buy a great vacation read. 5 out of 5 stars Hard to Put Down Till the End  From front to back this action-packed mystery kept me guessing about what could possibly happen next to make Mirabel's predicament any more complex. Her practical scientific mind stayed in constant contradiction with her impractical attraction to her ex-husband which added a genuine human aspect. CJ Petterson's broad knowledge of astronomy, airplanes, law enforcement, espionage and peoples' psychological foibles brings this book to life. I could see, smell, and almost touch each character as they interacted with emotions ranging from greed to love. As one who is usually successful in guessing the ending in mysteries, I failed with this one.
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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's day has a history, too

cj Sez: I hope all the wonderful dads out there have a Happy Father’s Day.

   Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, has a history that goes well beyond greeting cards. The first known American celebration to honor fathers happened in 1908 at the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South in Fairmont, West Virginia. A Mrs. Grace Golden Clayton wanted to have a memorial service for the more than 200 fathers who had died in the Monongah mining explosion that occurred on December 6, 1907. Described as “the worst mining disaster in American History,” the explosion left some 1,000 children without fathers.

   Two years later, Father’s Day was formally observed in
Spokane, Washington, on June 19, 1910 (the third Sunday in June). It became an annual celebration there and started events in other towns, but did not become a permanent national holiday for decades. Congress first introduced a bill to honor fathers in 1913, but it did not pass. In 1966, Lyndon Johnson used his Presidential Pen to issue a proclamation designating the third Sunday in June to honor fathers. Father’s Day finally became law in 1972, when President Richard Nixon signed a law declaring that Father’s Day be celebrated annually on the third Sunday in June.

cj’s note: According to a National Review analysis, at the time of the mine disaster in the early 1900s, fewer than eight percent of kids under the age of ten lived in a household that didn’t include their biological or adoptive father. Today, one in four kids under the age of ten have absentee fathers.
My father struggled through a hard life, was raised without a father and with little love. I don’t remember that we ever said “I love you” to each other but I knew he loved me by the unexpected, thoughtful things he did for me. What I remember most about Daddy are his strong hands, his Swedish accent, and seeing him dance the schottische around the kitchen on Saturday mornings when he made breakfast. I miss him still.    

That’s it for today’s post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


5 Star review for Choosing Carter, a fast and exciting vacation read . . . 5.0 out of 5 stars Another Page Turner!    No slow passages in this suspenseful and action-filled novel. The interesting cast of characters and even the rugged landscape (so well described) contribute to the feeling of "being there." Highly recommend this one.

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Father’s Day Info Sources:

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Since I can't decide...

cj Sez: I guess one day the decision will be made for me. But in the meantime, because I'm thinking about self-publishing, I’ve been doing a lot of research on the subject. And boy, are there a lot of opinions and experiences.

   I’m going to take one of my short stories and try to format it to see if I really want to become an indie author. In case you didn’t know the difference between an “indie author” and an “indie publisher,” here are excerpts of an article defining the two:

An indie author is an author who maintains complete creative control by self-publishing his or her book through companies such as CreateSpace or Book Baby, both of whom offer editing, proofreading services-for-hire, along with cover and page design services or do-it-yourself templates.

   The indie author who uses one of the company’s ISBNs is not the publisher of record, although CreateSpace allows, with conditions, the author to use her/his own ISBN.

An indie publisher is someone who treats the book publishing project as a serious business and not just a hobby. The author is the CEO of his or her indie publishing company.

   Indie publishers know their name is their brand and want their name associated with a quality product. They know consumers will not accept shoddy product design.

A traditional publisher is any publisher—big or small—that agrees to publish a book on behalf of an author and to pay the costs for doing so.

For more on this subject, drop by:


Congratulations to the finalists for the 2018 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction:

 Exposed by Lisa Scottoline
 Proof by C.E. Tobisman
 Testimony by Scott Turow

   The award was established in 2011 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” written by former Alabama law student, Harper Lee. The University of Alabama School of Law partnered with the ABA Journal to award the prize to a published work of fiction from the previous year that best demonstrates “the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.” 

   The inaugural prize went to John Grisham for his novel, The Confession.

   The 2018 award ceremony is scheduled to take place in late August during the Library of Congress National Book Festival

   And you have a chance to vote for your favorite.

  “Members of the public will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite among the finalists on the ABA Journal website, and the winner of the public vote will be considered during the prize selection process.”

   The poll is going to remain open through June 30, so  To vote for one of the books, go here.

Okay, that’s it for this post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


PS:  I plan to do my new logo reveal in my next newsletter, coming in July.

Choosing Carter is a fast and exciting beach read. (Click on the cover to buy.) Here’s Harper Lee Award winner Carolyn Haines’ 5-Star review:

The tension is high in this romantic thriller from Petterson. This is a great suspense novel with characters who are independent but learn to trust each other to survive.

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Simon&Schuster Author Page =

Sunday, June 3, 2018

D-Day and critiques

cj Sez: This coming Wednesday is the 74 th remembrance of D-Day, June 6, 1944—the day Allied forces hit the beaches of Normandy in defense of freedom.

    I remember especially an uncle who was injured on those bloody sands and a dear friend, who traveled with Patton and with whom I am privileged to be able to still connect. There are few of these World War II heroes still living todayI am honored to salute you and say, THANK YOU.  

Do you critique?
    Critiques are a must for serious writers. We’re way too close to our manuscripts, too subjective. Despite our best intentions, we can’t judge, proofread, or edit our own words, at least not thoroughly and objectively. We read past things, especially those sneaky gremlin misspellings. Sometimes the words we intended to write aren’t even on the page. Objective critique partners are able to find those missing words, poorly constructed sentences, punctuation errors, missing story threads, plot holes, and all the etceteras that the subjective writer misses.

    It’s true that finding compatible critique partners can be hard, very hard. Shared likability and a mutual respect for expertise are required by/for/from each other. But your manuscript deserves/needs critiques, so connecting with a critique group is definitely worth the effort.

    Your (and my own) role in a critique group is to remember the rules for critiquing. The most important one is: Be kind. Second: Find a way to start the critique with something positive. (Writers have fragile, creative egos, but you know that.) Third: Be truthful. It won’t help any writer if you praise something that is poorly written. I truly understand that no one likes to hear their baby manuscript is ugly, but speaking from experience, if we’re going to be successful writers, we have to develop a rhino hide in order to keep writing despite criticism—whether unwarranted or warranted—and despite the feared agent rejections.

    I’m currently not connected to a critique group, and I can testify my writing has suffered. I desperately need the deadline of a critique group meeting to make myself write. I think my best option right now is to join an on-line group with Sisters-in-Crime/Guppies.

    How about you? Do you critique on-line or in person?  How often?

    Okay, that’s it for today. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

Click on cover to buy.
Super beach read: Deadly Star 5 Star ReviewI just finished reading “Deadly Star.” It’s a great story and very well written.
I loved the way each chapter ended with a big “omigosh” moment that made it hard to put it down, just because I needed to find out what happens next. I suppose that’s the essence of suspense. Her style reminded me of Dan Brown, since he similarly keeps those chapter-to-chapter hooks going.
She obviously did a lot of research in several diverse fields to keep the details so wonderfully specific and accurate relative to weaponry, aeronautics, biology, astronomy, Japanese, and various secret government agencies and programs. Very impressive.
Great job!
I can’t wait to see her next one.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A three-day weekend?

cj Sez:  Because I think this information is important and needs to be repeated often . . .
All sacrificed some; some sacrificed all.

Q. What is the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?

A. Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served - not only those who died - have sacrificed and done their duty.

Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.

It wasn't always called Memorial Day — it used to be known as Decoration Day. cj Sez: When I was little, we called it Poppy Day instead of Decoration Day. Whatever the name, it's a day of remembrance for all those who have died in service of the United States of America.

Born of the Civil War, Memorial Day began as a holiday honoring Union soldiers, and some states still have separate Confederate observances. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, and Georgia on April 26. North and South Carolina observe it on May 10, Louisiana on June 3 and Tennessee calls that date Confederate Decoration Day. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day on Jan. 19 and Virginia calls the last Monday in May Confederate Memorial Day. (In this era of intolerance and cries to erase visible traces of our sad history, the memorials respecting Confederate soldiers who died fighting for what they believed in may not continue much longer.)

The date of the first Decoration Day, the 30th of May, 1868, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular Civil War battle.

In 1915, inspired by the rondeau poem “In Flanders Fields” (penned by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae while still at a World War I battlefront), Moina Michael conceived the idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need.

The thoughts below are from the Facebook of Janie Delchamps Zetsch of Dauphin Island, AL, a veteran and member of AL Post 250. It says everything. Janie told me it had been a repost and gave me permission to use it here. Please take a minute to read it all the way through.

“Just a reminder of what we celebrate next weekend. I am but one of millions of proud veterans, however it is not about us. It is to honor those that made the ultimate sacrifice during battle, and to honor those that served and have now gone onto their eternal rest. The following, pointed, reminders are provided for your use, knowledge and perhaps to teach a child what we celebrate and honor on Memorial Day.

Here's some ground rules for next weekend:
1. Don't wish me a Happy Memorial day. There is nothing happy about brave men and women dying.
2. It's not a holiday. It's a remembrance.
3. If you want to know the true meaning, visit Arlington or your local VA, not Disneyland.
4. Don't tell me how great any one political power is. Tell me about Chesty Puller, George Patton, John Basilone, Dakota Meyer, Kyle Carpenter, Mitchell Paige, Ira Hayes, Chris Kyle and any other heroes too numerous to name. Attend a Bell Ceremony and shed some tears.
5. Don't tell me I don't know what I am talking about. I have carried the burden all too many times for my warriors who now stand their post for God.
6. Say a prayer... and then another.
7. Remember the Fallen for all the Good they did while they were here.
8. Reach out and let a Vet know you're there, we're losing too many in "peace". God Bless those who fought and died and served this nation for our freedom.”

cj Sez:  I owe an awesome debt--one that I can never repay--to the heroes who died so that my family and I can live in freedom. I pray God’s blessings and comfort rain down on their families.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

The dreaded synopsis on my computer screen

cj Sez: I’ve been toiling on the dreaded synopsis for an unnamed work-in-progress. 

What is a synopsis, you may ask. The very successful publishing consultant Jane Friedman defines the synopsis this way:
“The synopsis conveys the narrative arc of your novel; it shows what happens and who changes, from beginning to end.”  (“Back to Basics: Writing a Novel Synopsis” )

  Basically, the starting sentence of my synopsis is my elevator pitch . . . twenty-five or so words that might pique the curiosity of an agent in the few seconds I have if we’re caught on an elevator together.

  The synopsis also reflects the same voice/tone as the manuscript. The document will be chronological in terms of where things happen in the manuscript and to whom. All the story threads will be neatly tied up, but it will include only major characters and major scenes. Beginning, middle, and end which means even if it’s a mystery, it will (must) reveal the ending. This is, after all, going to an agent or publisher.

  When I’m finished with the whole thing, I’ll ask another writer if s/he can make sense of what the story is about and if are there questions that need answering. Of course, that means I’ll need to get into edit cycle four, five, et al.

  Normally, I wait until the manuscript is complete to do a synopsis, but a friend of mine suggested doing a synopsis for each chapter as it’s completed. That does sound easier since everything is really fresh in my mind.

  The interesting thing for me about writing the synopsis is that it helps me identify plot holes; hopefully, all of them.

Three questions:
Ques 1: When do you write your synopsis…when the manuscript is complete or when each chapter is complete?
Ans: . . . .

Ques 2: We’re about a month out from the first day of summer so I’m asking…why are we seeing hellacious heat and humidity on the Gulf Coast already?
Ans: Okay, I know the answer to that one. It’s because Mother Nature doesn’t pay attention to humankind’s calendar.

Ques 3: Next week is Memorial Day weekend…anyone care to guess how high the national average for gas prices will be? They’re already on the way up.
Ans: And your guess is. . . .   

That’s it for this post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


A review of Deadly Star from Rebecca Barrett, author of Trouble in Paradise: "cj petterson has crafted a tale of murder, espionage, and romance which builds to a dramatic and satisfying conclusion. With a gift for well-written dialogue and a deft touch at creating suspense, Ms. petterson delivers a must-read story in Deadly Star."           
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Sunday, May 13, 2018

One hundred ten years ago, it was just a nice idea.

cj Sez:  I read someplace that love is the deepest emotion we share with one another. So, to all the Moms out there. . . I hope your Mother’s Day is filled to overflowing with love.

A bit of Mother’s Day history (from

In 1908 Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families, and it was declared a U.S. holiday in 1914. Her idea was to wear a white carnation as a badge and visit one’s mother or attend church services. She originally worked with the floral industry to help promote Mother’s Day,

That turned out to be a bad idea because by 1920, she had become so disgusted with the holiday’s commercialization, she urged people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards, and candies. 

In the U.S., people spend more money on Mother’s Day than on any other holiday, but we’re not alone in honoring our moms. Some version of Mother’s Day is celebrated around the world, although traditions and dates vary.

In Thailand, Mother’s Day was introduced in May 1950, but in 1976, the date was changed to August 12the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, who is considered the mother of all Thai people. (cj Sez: A May 11 Facebook post that the 85-year-old monarch, who has been in and out of hospital in recent years, had died is repudiated as untrue: "However the May 2018 report has now been confirmed as a complete hoax and just the latest in a string of celebrity death reports." )

In Ethiopia, Mother’s Day this year starts on May 13 as it does in the U.S., but their celebrations of motherhood will continue for three days.
When we lived many miles apart, I sent flowers to each son on Mother’s Day, because they have always been a source of pride. And besides, I wouldn’t be a mother without them. This year, they gave me roses. They could have given me dandelion blossoms, slightly crushed and moist from a sweaty little palm, as they did when they were little, and I could not have felt more loved.

I can’t end this post without remembering my Mom, as I do most every day. I’m grateful that she was the mother who soothed my fears, dried my tears, and patted my rear when I needed it. No matter what mistakes I made, she was a non-judgmental, sweet, sweet soul who believed in me. Thank you, Mom. You are forever in my heart.

That's it for today's post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same. 

PS:  No matter how old a mother is, she watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement.  — FLORIDA SCOTT-MAXWELL

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Sunday, May 6, 2018

A story tidbit...

cj Sez: Do you realize it’s May already? May is a very important month in the lives of so many people. My family is among all those happy groups celebrating graduations. CONGRATULATIONS to all the achievers. 

My youngest granddaughter, Maggie Rose, graduated from high school last week, and my oldest granddaughter, Johanna, graduates from college on Saturday.Where did the time go? When I moved to Mobile, the youngest was three and sitting on a pillow so she could reach the mouse to play games on my computer. Now, she’s about five inches taller than I am. No short jokes allowed.

With Mother’s Day coming up next Sunday, I’m wishing my mom could have known them as the beautiful and caring women they’ve become.

Before I get really maudlin, I think I’ll pick up the pace and leave you with an excerpt introducing the hero in CHOOSING CARTER. Enjoy:

Carter Danielson kicked a boot against the doorframe before the screen door opened with a squall, and he stepped through the doorway.
Bryn flopped back in her chair. “You’re just plain evil.”
“Now what’d I do?”
“Not you. This silly game,” she said and pointed to the monitor. “I’m playing hearts against the computer, and it’s cheating.”
Carter bowed low in front of her and peered at the screen, one hand behind his back. Bryn thought for the umpteenth time that he didn’t look his thirty-eight years. His face was unlined, except for that scattering of crow’s feet that crinkled in the corners of his eyes when he smiled.
While he was checking out her card game, she surveyed his lean form. The rolled-up shirtsleeves of his red-plaid cotton shirt exposed muscular, reddish-brown forearms. A skinning knife topped by an elk-horn haft rested in a hand-tooled, tanned leather sheath looped onto a black leather belt. His jeans were comfortably old, the blue on the thighs faded almost white. And even if she couldn’t see them, she knew he had on scuffed, walnut-colored work boots. In stocking feet, he stood two inches on the far side of six-feet tall, and by the time her gaze had wandered back to his face, he’d pushed his sunglasses onto his baseball cap and was watching her map his body. She looked up into turquoise-colored eyes that always caused an odd, hollow feeling, like hunger, in the pit of her stomach. Caught, she stifled a giggle.
He obviously enjoyed her appraisal because he sent her a warm smile and slowly shook his head. “You need to get a life,” he said in a voice that exactly matched low D on a piano keyboard and carried the vaguely melodic lilt of his grandmother’s Cherokee tongue.
She decided his smile and the sound of his voice dulled more of her headache than the aspirin had. “What’s behind your back?”
He brought out a thorny stalk topped by a cluster of three pink-tinged, yellow, floppy roses. He breathed in the fragrance, stripped away the thorns between thumb and forefinger, and held out the stem. “Don’t say I never give you anything.” He pointed at her hair. “I see you have a new hairstyle.”
That he had noticed pleased her, and she ran her fingers through the cut that had changed her nut-brown ponytail to short curls. “Easier to take care of. Thank you for the roses, even if you did snitch them from my garden.”
“Don’t I get credit for remembering that the Peace bushes are your favorite?”
“I’ll think about it,” she said with a smile then spun around to a rickety three-shelf bookcase. She lifted a frayed bouquet out of the gold-rimmed, old pitcher on the top shelf, tossed the dripping twigs into a trashcan, and then dropped in the fresh stem.
“Working on a job?” he asked and nodded at the computer.
“Yes and no. I just finished some ad copy for a client and added a bit to my journal before you caught me playing games.”
“You sure don’t look old enough to write a memoir.”
“Don’t be a smart-aleck. It’s a journal. Someday, maybe I’ll write my memoir, but I’m not old enough or brave enough yet.”   
His eyebrows shrugged in mock disbelief. He pointed toward the door. “I’ll bring some machine oil for that screen door the next time I come.”
“No, that’s okay. It talks to me. Tells me when you’re coming in, so you can’t sneak up on me. I like it that way.”
“Ah.” He leaned against the desk and folded his arms across his chest. “The old Squealing Door Alarm System.”
“The price is right. Besides, it works as good as any and better than some.” She tapped her watch face. “What are you doing here at this time of day on a Friday? Shouldn’t you be over in Jensen to pick up some paying customers?”
“Not today.”
“The world’s greatest Colorado outdoors guide has no clients?”
“Nope. The Knuckle-Ball Express isn’t flying. The smoke coming off Roundtop has it grounded.”
“I can’t imagine anyone wanting to fly in that aluminum tube over smoke and hellfire anyway. The thermals would be horrendous,” she said, remembering her last flight.
On a good day, the sleek eighteen-seater that made the short hop from Salt Lake City to Jensen dipped and dropped like a major league knuckleball as it surfed the wind currents over the Wasatch Mountain Range. Moans, including her own, erupted as passengers reached for barf-bags or punished the armrests with white-fingered grips.
“If you came here because you have nothing to do,” she said, “I think I can come up with a list.”
He glanced at her. “I bet you can, but I do have something to do. I’m getting ready for our date. You do remember we were going to go rafting this weekend.”
“We talked about that weeks ago. I forgot. You said ‘our date.’ Would that be like a boy-girl thing?” she asked and cocked her head.
“Nope. We made a plan to celebrate your birthday, and . . .” he looked at the calendar icon on his watch, “by my reckoning, June 13 is this weekend. You about ready to go?”
She wrinkled her nose. You’d be so easy to love. If only you’d let me. “I think I need to beg off. Got a lot of deadlines to meet. Can I get a rain check?”
“Birthdays come once a year as I remember. Want to postpone until next year?”
“There’s fresh coffee,” she said to change the subject of another birthday coming up and gain time to think.
“Smelled it,” Carter said and headed in the direction of the coffee pot. He doffed his baseball cap, hung it on one of the hooks twisted into the wall near the door. A lock of coarse hair, black as a raven’s wing was how his mother described it, escaped his ponytail tied low with a narrow, leather bootlace. He wrapped the errant strand behind an earlobe where a tiny, silver feather earring dangled. 

To read more about this hunky hero, buy CHOOSING CARTER here:

Were you drawn into the scene in the Deep Point of View places? Do you have a hint of these characters’ personalities and what’s going on between them?

That’s it for this week’s post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Paying it forward

cj Sez: The following two reviews of books I’ve read (from my TBR pile) is my way of paying-it-forward, trying to help fellow authors reach new audiences.

Love, Stock & Barrel, by Crystal L. Barnes

Love, Stock & Barrel, launched in 2016, is the second novel in Crystal Barnes’s Marriage & Mayhem Series. Protagonist Dinah Lexington runs away from an arranged marriage to a genuine creep and heads to Texas in search of a possible relative described in her dead mother’s diary. She’s not welcomed with open arms and is forced to defend herself against suspicions that she is not who she claims to be.

Dinah is attracted to a gentle church-going hero, but her heart is too recently bruised to let herself be drawn into a new romance. The novel is a fast-paced page-turner, complete with a strong, sassy protagonist, a hunky and genuinely likeable hero, and the requisite baddies you’ve come to expect in a historical Western. There is a good balance between wonderful, conversational dialogue and informative narrative.

Love, Stock & Barrel is a well-written, historical, romantic suspense with a surprise twist and a perfect happily ever after ending.

The Apprenticeship of Nigel Blackthorn, by Frank Kelso

The Apprenticeship of Nigel Blackthorn, launched in 2017, is part one of a coming of age story.  I take that back: Nigel Blackthorn doesn’t just “come of age;” he is dragged kicking and screaming (and some whining) through his teenaged years in an alien environment. What a fantastic period of learning and growing the thirteen-year-old experiences.

Orphaned in Texas by a marauding band of Comanche, Nigel, a naïve, fresh-from-England, mama’s boy begins his apprenticeship in survival under the tutelage of Pascal, a defrocked Jesuit priest turned muleskinner. Nigel, renamed Black Wolf, continues his education in the camp of a band of Cheyenne, “The People.”

Author Frank Kelso weaves such exacting historical details and dialogues into his story that the reader cannot help but be drawn into the daily lives of the inhabitants of old Texas in the mid-1850s.  A worthwhile, historical fiction read.


It’s not out yet, but I’m looking forward to Trouble in Paradise, the latest novel in the Familiar Legacy series.

Written by Rebecca Barrett, the book launches on May 7 and is available for pre-order on Amazon now.


What have you read and reviewed lately?

That’s it for this week’s post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

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