Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Reading Challenge: 2012 Off the Shelf Challenge

My latest foray into the reading challenge ring is the 2012 Off the Shelf Challenge to read books off your shelf that have been languishing there since before January 1st.

I'm off to a great start by (restarting and) finishing Fingerprints of the Gods which I've had since 1995.  No, really.  And I finally finished it!  Yea me!  :)

I'm going for the Making a Dent - 30 books level.  My challenge list is here.

What It’s All About

Do you love books? Do you love them so much your to be read list seems to keep growing, and growing, and growing? Is space on your bookshelf taken up with unread books? Is your eBook library burgeoning with unread stories? We’ve been there at BA and we still are!

This challenge is to read those books you own a copy of, print, digital, and audio, you have been meaning to read, but never gotten to. If you don’t own enough books for the challenge you can read your TBR list instead. And no, you do not need to get rid of your books afterwards, that’s completely your choice, this challenge is only to read them.

The Deets

  • The Main Rule: Do not include books acquired during 2012, it defeats the purpose, read those books from before 2012 started!
  • Running Dates: 1st of January – 31st of December 2012
  • When Can I Sign Up: All the way up to the last two weeks of December 2012!
  • Crossover Genres: Anything! The name of the game is to turn those unread books into read ones.
  • Mr Linky: To use the Mr Linky you’ll need to click on the graphic then enter your link. These will be updated and posted into this page every couple of weeks or so.
  • Further Details: Crossover challenges are fine, you can change levels at any time, this is eBook, short story, and graphic novel friendly, and you don’t need a blog to join in (read further for details).

The How To

  1. Choose Your Level:These are listed further down and you can change levels at any time.
  2. Grab The Badge: Place it somewhere on your blog, profile, or in a signature where possible and link back (main page or this page, it’s up to you).
  3. Sign Up Post: Create a post on your blog, in a group, or on a forum (only if allowed) to let others see what you’re aiming for (a predefined list of books is optional).
  4. Link Up: Grab the direct URL to your sign up post, not your blog, click the Mr Linky graphic and enter your link!
  5. Blogless? Don’t worry, you can sign up with your social network profile (YouTube, Twitter, GoodReads, Shelfari included), just make sure you link to your review list, shelf, tweet, or category. If you don’t have any of those feel free to comment!


  1. Your Reviews: Reviewing is optional! But if you do review we’d love for you to share them by submitting them on the Review Page (including social networks).
  2. Finished: When you’re done it’s completion post time and you can share these on the Completion Post page!

Challenge Levels

  1. Tempted– Choose 5 books to read
  2. Trying – Choose 15 books to read
  3. Making A Dint – Choose 30 books to read
  4. On A Roll – Choose 50 books to read
  5. Flying Off – Choose 75 books to read
  6. Hoarder – Choose between 76-135 books to read
  7. Buried – Choose between 136-200 books to read

Extra Challenges

If you feel like that extra kick to your reading challenges here’s a couple you can choose from.

  • World:Choose a country as your theme, reading only books from that country or where it’s the setting. For how high you go you can choose more than one country;
    • Level Tempted and Trying: Choose one country
    • Level Making a Dint and On A Roll: Choose two countries
    • Level Flying Off to end of Hoarder: Choose three countries
    • Level Buried: Choose four countries.
  • Gender Battle: Read books only by female or male authors. Another alternative is to read equal amounts of both.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Update: Rafflecopter Form Fixed on Giveaway

Thank you to everyone who reported to me that the Raffleopter entry form for the 400 Followers Giveaway wasn't working!

So, Rafflecopter hates me!  :)  I was able to tweak it and now the entry form is showing up.  Hopefully it stays that way!

If you are unable to use the form just let me know and I'll go back to the old way of doing giveaways.

Thanks so much!

Reading Challenge: A to Z Book Challenge

I'm a sucker for reading challenges this year and this seemed to fit in perfectly.  My list for the challenge is here.  I'm going with method B.

Technical Stuff
This challenge will run from January 1st, 2012 until December 31st, 2012.
You can join anytime.
If you are blogger, leave the link to your actual post about this challenge.
If you are not a blogger, leave a link to where you will be keeping track of this challenge.

So there are two different ways you can set up your own A-Z challenge.

A - Make a list now of 26 books, picking one for each letter of the alphabet. For example: A - Atonement B- Black Beauty C - The Count of Monte Cristo D - Dances with Dragons etc.


B - The lazy way (how I do it) : Make a list on your blog from A-Z. Throughout the year, as you go along, add the books you are reading to the list. Hope that by the end of the year you have read one book for each letter. Towards the end of the year, you can check and see which letters you are missing and find books to fit.

Each month, I will add another challenge to this main challenge. It might to read a book with both A and Z in the title or to read a book with 3 words that all start with the same letter. I might host a few random giveaways too for good measure.

So to join along....
1. Write a blog post about this challenge and whether you are going go with A or B.
2. Add the button to your blog.
3. Attach yourself to the linky.
4. Follow my blog so that you can see when I post the monthly challenge!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Giveaway: 400 Followers Giveaway

Since I'm closing in on 400 followers I'm giving away a box of books listed below to one winner.

UPDATE:  The Rafflecopter form was not working before and has been fixed.  I'm SO sorry for any troubles this caused!  

As an apology to my fabulous followers I'm adding a second box of books to the giveaway.  This will be an assortment of romances only.  So, just let me know in the entry form which you'd like to enter for - the original "general" box or the "romances" box.


Some will be ARCs, others will finished books.  It depends on what I have to review.  Most will be previously read.

The list will continue to grow as I review books and add them to the box.

  1. The Killing Game

Enter via the Rafflecopter form below:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Featured Book: Big Business and Body Bags by Lincoln R. Peters

About the book:

The book is a work of fiction and involves no living people. The story chronicles the life of a young man with no job skills and no education drifting along the saloon circuits and ending up in a big city street gang. There he is indoctrinated in all their reprehensible and vicious activities including the ultimate act of murder. Johnny Howell was a typical young man growing up in the inner city streets and back alleys of Chicago. His life was no different that thousands of others like him; they were all poor and looking for a way to make some money. Johnny found a way, but it dragged him down into the deadly depths of the lucrative drug business. Johnny is a white man that the Mexicans call a gringo and the black men call a honky. Selling drugs in the inner cities is a cash cow that has attracted the attention of all the major street gangs in the country. This has now even grown to include the murderous Mexican drug cartels. The drugs have accumulated into large supplies in Mexico but the markets and the money are all up north of the US border. This creates a murderous internecine battle for the shipping routes and the trafficking of the drugs into our country. The book describes the methods and details of the penetration of the Mexican drug cartels operations in the northern cities. It also details their attempts to forge alliances with the local neighborhood street gangs. The locale for the story is here in my home town of Chicago. The steady flow of news reports of the brutal drug wars raging down on the Mexico border are reported almost daily. The ensuing battles among the Mexicans drug cartels and their government have produced more casualties than the treacherous wars going on in the Middle East right now. Johnny Howell ended his career the same way all the other drug dealers did.

About the author:

Lincoln R Peters is a disabled veteran of WWII He was wounded during the invasion of the Philippine Islands in 1945. He has been married to his wife Maureen for 54 years. He has two sons and five grandchildren.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Featured Book: Shadows and Fire by Jennifer Fales

About the book:

In the parallel future, mankind has created its own worst nightmare - a hybrid species of supernatural beings that demands a high toll in return for peace. Follow the adventure of a tortured man seeking redemption and a brother and sister, the unwilling product of both worlds, torn apart, determined to reunite with one another. And remember that nothing is what it seems under the domes.

About the author:

Jennifer Fales is an east coast girl transplanted to the west coast just shy of a decade ago. She's also a huge fan of Stephen Colbert. English is her native tongue, followed closely by sarcasm. Her interests run the gamut from science to the supernatural, with a little kickboxing thrown in for good measure. She currently lives in Corona California with her boyfriend. This is her first novel. Jennifer Fales can be contacted at: shadowsandfire@gmail.com or via the contact page on her website: jenniferfales.com

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Author Q and A: Terry A. Smith author of Ten: How Would You Rate Your Life?

Terry A. Smith, author of the book Ten:  How Would You Rate Your Life?, stopped by for a Q&A.

What makes Ten different from all the other self-help books already out there?

One of my primary goals in writing the book was to connect the incredible power of crating a better life to the exponential power of leadership.  Regardless of who we are or what our natural inclination or talents might be, when we strive for a better life, we just lead others with us down the path to the best possible reality. Life is not only about us.  It never has been.  That's why the book focuses on "others-help" rather than "self-help".

Not being satisfied with what we have is often cited as the root cause of many of today's woes.  Yet in Ten, you write that you believe the problem is that we don't want enough.  Could you elaborate?

I couldn't agree less with the idea that most of our problems result from wanting too much.  I think we should want more.  Not more stuff, but more life.  I believe a more fulfilling life - a life in all its fullness - is the future that we are created to have.  I also believe that we have the ability to tap into this potential and crate that more and better life for ourselves and others.

In the book, you outline a seven-step plan for creating at TEN Life.  What are those seven steps?

1.  Awaken:  Wake up to the preferred future that is within you.
2.  Discover:  Discover your specific area of destiny.
3.  Imagine:  Learn how the discipline of imagination makes the future real.
4.  Grow:  Develop the life infrastructure necessary to sustain success.
5.  Act:  Take action to create imagined reality.
6.  Lead:  Learn to lead yourself and others to the best possible future.
7.  Go There:  Accept the call to get started living the more and better life you were intended to live.

Of all the steps, the one requiring us to grow seems the most difficult.  Why is personal growth so important?

The greater our inspired ambitions, the greater our need to develop the secure foundation necessary to sustain them.  We must become bigger people if we desire to live a bigger life.  We must be willing to expand as human beings in order to become the person that we are capable of becoming.  And the more ambitious we are, the more we must be willing to fully develop ourselves in every aspect of our lives.

A large portion of your book is dedicated to developing leadership skills.  Why is being a leader so important?

Who wants to enter a preferred future alone?  If we are to live the best possible life, then we must be obligated to more than just ourselves.  We must be obligated to the countless people we have direct or indirect, immediate or future influence over.  Leadership is about accepting responsibility for others.  A moral future is an inclusive one.

But what about those people who don't see themselves as leaders?

I believe everyone is a leader in some capacity.  If you are a mother, then you are a leader.  If you are a teacher, you are a leader.  If you are gifted in the arts, you are a leader.  Excellent athletes are leaders.  Managers, politicians, pastors and CEOs are all obviously leaders.  While most people may not be born with natural leadership skills, it is a skill that can be learned and developed.  It can be studied.  For our own survival and the survival and success of those around us, it is imperative that we learn effective leadership skills.  Trust me, you can learn to lead if you have to, and I think you have to.

About the book:

Whether we’re in the depths of a crisis or riding the wave of success and blessing, we all desire a life that’s better than the one we’re living now. We all want more – more fulfillment, more joy, more satisfaction, more significance.

So on a scale of one to ten, how do you rate your life? A “six”? Maybe a “seven”? Not bad, but what if you could be living a TEN? Would you risk doing things differently, dare to look at your circumstances from a different perspective in order to achieve the life that awaits you? In TEN, Terry Smith offers you the pathway to living a TEN life.

TEN is not just another self-help book. On the contrary, this book shows you a clear and compelling path that takes you beyond “self-help” to experience the fulfillment of “others-help”. Smith shows you how to master the essential bond between getting better at your life and helping others get better at theirs.

TEN will challenge you to become the leader God created you to be. By creating your preferred future, you’ll be impacting not just your own life, but the lives of those around you, and even the lives of people you haven’t even met yet. Don’t settle. Whether you rate the life you’re living now as a two, a five, or a seven, now is the time to start living a TEN!

About the author:
Terry A. Smith has served as lead pastor of The Life Christian Church for twenty years. TLCC is a non-denominational faith community in West Orange, NJ, serving the New York City metro area. TLCC is known for attracting an incredibly diverse congregation—drawing people from a multitude of nationalities and seventy-five surrounding communities—who want to get better at life.

Terry is a cofounder of the New York City Leadership Center and an instructor in its Leadership Fellows program. A gifted communicator, Terry speaks in a variety of venues nationally and internationally. He is passionate about challenging, developing, and encouraging leaders, whether they know they are leaders or not. He holds a bachelor of science in organizational management and a master of arts in organizational leadership. Terry has been married to his wife, Sharon, for twenty-eight years, and they have three adult children: Sumerr, Caleb, and Christian.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Featured Book: Bodacious Blues by Whitney J. LeBlanc

About the book:

Three generations of a Louisiana Creole family have struggled amidst blues music, religious conflict, lust, lynching, murder, voodoo and racism. Now, as they come of age, the grandchildren of Martha Broussard, find they must carve their own paths through a rapidly changing world. Ann Martel becomes the doctor her grandfather hoped her brother would become. Disappointed in love, she finds contentment and happiness with an older woman-partner, who ironically was her Grandmother's choice to be married into the family. Meanwhile, her brother, Les Martel, defies all who challenge the man he desires to be. He protests racial intimidation in Estilette, takes on the abusive lover of his Aunt in Chicago, fights a Paul Bunyan-sized giant in the backwoods of Bemidji, kicks the ass of his sister's contemptible womanizer boyfriend in Nashville, and gives comeuppance to a backstabber in Hollywood. He soon discovers that Hollywood is not the place he thought it would be--the values were not his values--the truth is not his truth--trust is deception--honesty is weakness and “loyalty” an unknown word. Bodacious Blues, the remarkable finale to Whitney LeBlanc’s compelling, blues-filled trilogy, completes this proud family’s saga. Amidst a milieu of religious controversy, sexual cross-identification, changing values, and racial exploitation, the message is loud and clear—Coming of age as adults was not as easy as they thought.

About the author:

A Louisiana native, Whitney J. LeBlanc has been a teacher, writer, producer, set designer, and award-winning theatre director. He spent more than half of his 50-year career in Hollywood as a director for television. LeBlanc is the author of Blues in the Wind and Shadows of the Blues. He holds a master’s in theatre arts production from the University of Iowa. LeBlanc lives with his physician wife in California’s Napa Valley, where he writes novels and creates stained-glass windows.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Reading Challenge: 2012 Death by Gaslight Challenge

I'm on a full on mystery kick this year and this challenge looked perfect.  My list is here.  I'm going for the Merry Widow of Windy Nook level.

For the Death by Gaslight Reading Challenge, the goal is to read mysteries set in or written during the Victorian and Edwardian eras (1837 - 1910). I'll probably be reading mysteries set in England (since those are the ones I'm most interested in), but any location is acceptable, as long as the time frame fits. No more than 3 titles can be from the same series (except for the first special challenge, listed below).

There are 4 levels to choose from:
1.  The Merry Widow of Windy Nook: 5 books
2.  Palmer the Poisoner: 10 books
3.  Burke and Hare, Body Snatchers: 15 books
4.  Jack the Ripper: 20+ books

Additionally, there are 4 "special challenges".  Books which are read for any of these mini-levels do not count towards the main reading levels. These are "extra credit" and are purely optional.
1.  Serial Killer: Read an entire series (re-reading if necessary) from the first book until the last (or most recently published). There is no limit on the number of books, so a series could consist of 2 books or 20.
2.  The Great Detective: Read 5 (or more) books featuring Sherlock Holmes, at least one of which must be an original story by Arthur Conan Doyle.
3.  Arsenic and Air Ships: Read 5 (or more) books which are steampunk mysteries.
4.  Penny Dreadfuls: Read 5 (or more) non-fiction books that detail Victorian or Edwardian crimes.

All the regular rules apply:
* cross-overs between challenges are more than okay
* any format counts - audio, ebook, etc., as well as any level (adult, children, YA)
* you don't have to have a blog to participate (since I technically don't - I post reviews at Goodreads)
* feel free to change levels at any time
* re-reads are fine, but books must be read in the 2012 calendar year to count
Reading challenges are suppose to the challenging (hence the name)...but we don't do this for a living, we do this for fun! 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Winners: American Dervish

The winners are:

1.  Sandra

Congratulations to the winners and thank you to Hachette for sponsoring the giveaway!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Winners: Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?

The winners are:

1.  Leah
2.  Lilian


Thank you to Hachette for sponsoring this giveaway!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Winners: Girl Land

The winners of Girl Land are:

1.  Keri
2.  Christina


Thank you to Hachette for providing the giveaway!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Featured Book: Adventures in Political Theory by Norman Patrick Peritore

About the book:

Learn about Socrates, the Sophists, Plato and Aristotle, Epicureans and Stoics, Medieval thought, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Hegel, Marx, Gramsci, communism, fascism, Freud, Marcuse, Fromm, Nietzsche, Derrida, Foucault, feminism, environmentalism, evolutionary biology and human nature, transhumanism, Weber, Schumpeter, rational choice, Gandhi, Habermas, Freire, and participatory democracy, all in a accurate but light non-academic style. This book will make you think about politics and the world in a new way.

About the author:

Norman Patrick Peritore Ph.D. taught for 40 years at University of Missouri, with stints at Federal University of Argentina, University of Auckland, University of Sibiu Romania, Catholic University in Recife Brazil, California State University at San Jose. Author of five books, thirty articles, and over one hundred conference presentations in eight countries, he lives in Recife, Brazil, where he does yoga, underwater photography and sails, is studying biology, and works in a cancer charity. He has travelled to thirty countries and done field research in eight. He reads or speaks six languages.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Reading Challenge: The Pratchett Reading Challenge

You know I love my Discworld, and I'm trying to catch up on the series so this should be fun.  My list for the challenge is here.

  1. Any format, any book, so long as it’s Pratchett. 
  2. Re-reads are also perfectly acceptable! 
  3. Books need to be started and finished between January 1st 2012 and December 31st 2012. 
  4. You can set your own goals, whether you want to read 5 books or go for the whole Discworld series, that is entirely up to you. Be realistic or go crazy, there are no penalties if you don’t meet your goal, in fact the only real goal is to read some Pratchett.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Featured Book: Starfish, Seashells Coral and Gems by Barbara Bryan

About the book:

It is summer vacation for Terry, and her older sister, Sunshine, is taking care of her while their parents are away.Terry makes quite a discovery; a lovely mermaid named Nicolee. They develop a special friendship, which leaves a lasting impression in both their hearts.

About the author:

Barbara Bryan lives in Novato, California. She is the author of Holiday Poems for Children, Save The Golden Tree, Just for Fun, Starfish, Seashells, Coral and Gems, and Where Are My Amethysts?.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Author Q and A: Brandilyn Collins author of Gone to Ground

Brandilyn Collins, author of the book Gone to Ground, stopped by to share her Q and A with PR by the Book.

Brandilyn, thanks for talking to us at PR by the Book. We understand Gone to Ground is your 23rd novel and your first suspense set in the South. Why the South?

Ah, because it’s a place of such rich culture and heritage. I love the South!. I particularly wanted to set Gone to Ground in a small southern town, in which everyone knows everyone. Or at least they think they do. Small towns are rife with intrigue. It’s not that there no secrets. It’s just that they’re buried deeper. So I created my fictional town of Amaryllis, Mississippi, in rural Jasper County (which is real). Amaryllis has about 1700 residents.

Give us a one-line description of Gone to Ground.

Three women independently discover they know the identity of the serial killer—someone dear to them—in their small Mississippi town, and must bring him down. But each suspects a different man.

Okay, that’s two lines.

That does sound intriguing. These three women form an ensemble cast for Gone to Ground. Reviewers are loving these characters. Tell us about them.

The characters represent two races—white and black—and three generations. Cherrie Mae is an African American woman in her 60s. She runs her own housecleaning business and has a penchant for reading classic literature. While she’s reading she loves to write down quotes that stand out to her—and she tends to quote these lines at some rather odd times. She’s a little thing, barely over five feet, yet with a powerful personality. Cherrie Mae is very respected in her town and church. Deena is white, age 32—a hair dresser that knows how to talk, sure. But off duty she’d just as soon be quiet and by herself. Not that she’s any kind of pushover. Just ask her ex husband—an officer on the Amaryllis police force. Tully is also white, age 19, just out of high school. She’s married and about ready to give birth to her first child. Tully was valedictorian of her class and headed for college—until Michael, a town rebel, swept her off her feet. She’d always been shy and withdrawn, but he made her feel so special. So wanted. Now that she’s married to him, and he’s turned out to be abusive, she’s trapped. What will she do when her baby is born?

Sounds like three very different characters. What man does each suspect is the killer?

Cherrie Mae discovers it’s the beloved mayor of the town and one of her biggest housecleaning clients—Austin Bradmeyer. Deena discovers it’s her brother, Steven. Tully discovers it’s her husband, Michael. All have strong reasons for these suspicions.

Wow. So each of their lives will be turned totally upside down.

That’s the idea.

As we mentioned, reviewers are raving about these characters. We’ve seen quotes such as: “I was spellbound. The characters are interesting and believable.” “The characters are so real!” “Not often do I love all the main characters in a novel, but I sure did this one.”How did you go about characterizing these women?

Well, there are many techniques I use to create my characters. In fact, I wrote a book about that called Getting Into Character, in which I take techniques from the art of method acting and tweak them for the novelist. For Gone to Ground I do something I’ve not done before—run multiple points of view. Each character tells her part of the story in her own unique voice, which allows for deep characterization. In first person even the narrative is told is that character’s voice, not mine as a writer. This approach created a richness in the story that I wouldn’t have had if I’d written the book in third person.

How did you get to the heart of each character’s voice?

I knew I had to write in dialect so readers could truly “hear” the voices. This would be absolutely key to the characterization. So the most important thing was to learn that Mississippi dialect. Especially for Cherrie Mae. I traveled to Jasper County in Mississippi, in which Gone to Ground is set, to interview people. In Bay Springs, the county seat, I interviewed some black women around the age of Cherrie Mae. I made careful notes of how they spoke certain words and phrases. I noted common patterns of speech—didn’t seem to matter whether the person had lived in the area all her life or had gone off to college and returned. For the white characters I also needed southern idioms and speech patterns. When the manuscript was done I sent it to an author friend in Mississippi so she could check my characters’ dialects.

You have a story to tell about one of those women you interviewed, don’t you.

I sure do. One of the African American women in Bay Springs was named Cherrie Mae. I so loved the name, I asked her if she’d allow me to use her it for my character. She was thrilled to say yes.

After the book was written and it was time to create the book trailer, my publisher and I, plus a technician, traveled again to Bay Springs to audition voices for my three characters. The book trailer would be the venue through which readers could physically hear my characters’ voices—so they had to be exactly right. I knew I couldn’t get what I wanted unless I traveled back to Mississippi. The real Cherrie Mae had already agreed to play my character named after her. Her voice was absolutely what I wanted. It has a kind of child-like, yet firm quality to it. Very musical. For Deena, we ended up using the receptionist at City Hall who’d first introduced me to Cherrie Mae. Tully’s young southern voice was recorded outside of Bay Springs. I love the way the book trailer turned out. These three audio voices completely capture my characters.

That’s a great story. After all you’ve told us about your research of dialect, it’s interesting that the Publishers Weekly review—which is favorable about Gone to Ground and your writing in general—takes you to task for Cherrie Mae’s dialect, basically saying it’s not correct for this day and age. Particularly for a character who’s self-educated through reading. What’s your response?

Oh, LOL. I’d say the reviewer needs to get out of New York once in awhile. Her shrug-the-shoulder remarks show her lack of knowledge about the area and its culture. The dialect issue was the very thing I researched the most! I don’t mind reviewers disagreeing with one of my writing techniques, but I do mind when they make a public statement of “fact” for which they have no basis.

Interestingly, the day before the PW review came out I read a review of Gone to Ground written by a southern African American woman, who raves about the book’s “unique southern charm and highly contagious dialect.” Of Cherrie Mae she says: “With this character, Collins captures the heart and soul of southern African American women. She’s a sassy, comical, no-nonsense, you-better-listen-to-me-I’m-your-elder kind of lady. Often throughout the story I pictured her to be a few different women from my own church. I loved it! It excited me and brought out my own Southern Girl Attitude!” I’ll take that insight—from someone who lives in the South—over PW’s New York attitude any day.

You mentioned Cherrie Mae’s habit of spouting quotes from classic literature. How did you decide which literature quotes to include?

I have my own notebook of classic quotes—which is where I got the idea for this character quirk of Cherrie Mae’s. (Although I don’t go around quoting them as she does.) So I used many of the lines I’ve collected in places in which they were apropos. At other times when I felt a quote was needed I used a web site for classic quotes that are cataloged by key words. The web site was very helpful in coming up with the perfect quote for what was happening at the time in the story.

By the way, in the back of Gone to Ground is a list of Cherrie Mae’s quotes by chapter, noting the original classic book and author.

Let’s talk about your fictional town, Amaryllis, MS. What kind of research did you need to conduct to create this town?

I started online and by telephone, researching the area currently and historically. Even though the story is present-day, I needed to understand how a town like Amaryllis would come to be. I needed to know myriad other things—how are amaryllis flowers grown in Mississippi? Issues about law enforcement. And all sorts of details to make the town come alive. When I traveled to Bay Springs for my interviews I also spent a day driving around, taking pictures of the area and its roads. Other than my fictional town, I wanted all the surrounding information about the county to be real. I found the exact spot, about five miles from Bay Springs, where I would place Amaryllis. I want people in that area who read Gone to Ground to be able to picture it and say, “This writer knows what she’s talking about.”

In the book you’ve incorporated an unusual technique involving a Pulitzer prize-winning article. Tell us about this—and why you chose to use it.

The fictional Pulitzer article is written by a supporting character, Trent Williams. Trent grew up in Amaryllis and left it as an adult to be a crime reporter in a major Jackson newspaper. When the serial killings began occurring in his home town, he wrote a feature article describing the effect of these unsolved homicides on the town. I use very short excerpts from his article here and there throughout the book. (They can’t be long, because I don’t want to stop the action.) But they serve to characterize Amaryllis as a whole, in a way creating the town as a character in itself and providing a richer backdrop for the story. While my three protagonists’ voices are just the way they’d talk in their daily lives, the article has a more formal voice, lending a sort of literary feel to those sections of the book. All in all, I think the article enriches the story.

You’re known for your trademarked logo, Seatbelt Suspense®. What does that mean, and where did the term come from?

I came up with the brand name Seatbelt Suspense® after reading hundreds of fan letters that again and again mentioned “being on the edge of their seats” or feeling like they were on a rollercoaster as they read my books. It was clearly how my readers viewed me. The four-point brand promise of Seatbelt Suspense® is “fast-paced, character-driven suspense with myriad twists and an underlying thread of faith.” As to fast-paced—my readers know my stories start with a bang, and the pace keeps high. Character-driven—absolutely essential. The most intriguing plot in the world won’t keep readers engaged if they don’t care about the characters. I find it a real challenge with every book to keep my pace fast, with constant chapter hooks, yet present deep characterizations. But that’s what I have to do. The third point—twists: my readers know they’re in for surprises. They expect it from me, and I’d better deliver. They also expect a faith aspect in each of my novels. In each book that element must rise naturally from the main character(s) and the challenges/dangers inherent in the story. It’s my job to write the best, rollicking suspense I can. Somewhere along the way, I began to see the “so what?” of the story, and I allow it to present itself through the characters.

Thanks, Brandilyn, for talking to us about Gone to Ground. Before we go—what are you working on next?

I’ve already written the book that’s coming after Gone to Ground. Titled Double Blind. It’s a high concept story about a brain chip implant gone terribly wrong. What happens when the enemy you need to run away from—is your own brain? Double Blind releases this October. I’m now working on the suspense novel following Double Blind. Not letting any cats out of the bag about that one just yet.

Where can we find more about you online?

Certainly on my Web site. There you can read about all my books, upcoming events and other such things. One of the most popular features on my site is the ability to read the opening chapters of all my novels. Gives you a “Sneak Pique” (the name of my newsletter) of the stories. I’m also on Facebook here.

Speaking of openings—as a finale, give us the opening line of Gone to Ground’s first chapter.

“Get me a Bible and some cigarettes—and I’ll talk.”


About the book:

Amaryllis, Mississippi is a scrappy little town of strong backbone and southern hospitality. A brick-paved Main Street, a park, and a legendary ghost in the local cemetery are all part of its heritage. Everybody knows everybody in Amaryllis, and gossip wafts on the breeze. Its people are friendly, its families tight. On the surface Amaryllis seems much like the flower for which it’s named—bright and fragrant. But the Amaryllis flower is poison.

In the past three years five unsolved murders have occurred within the town. All the victims were women, and all were killed in similar fashion in their own homes. And just two nights ago—a sixth murder.

Clearly a killer lives among the good citizens of Amaryllis. And now three terrified women are sure they know who he is—someone they love. None is aware of the others’ suspicions. And each must make the heartrending choice to bring the killer down. But each woman suspects a different man.

About the author:

Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. Awards for her novels include the ACFW Book of the Year (three times), Inspirational Readers' Choice, and Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice. Also, The Writer magazine named her nonfiction release, Getting Into Character, one of the best books on writing published in 2002.

When she's not writing, Brandilyn can be found teaching the craft of fiction at writers' conferences. She and her family divide their time between homes in the California Bay Area and northern Idaho.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Featured Book: Far From Here by Nicole Baart

About the book:

How long do you hold on to hope?

Danica Greene has always hated flying, so it was almost laughable that the boy of her dreams was a pilot. She married him anyway and together, she and Etsell settled into a life where love really did seem to conquer all. Danica is firmly rooted on the ground in Blackhawk, the small town in northern Iowa where they grew up, and the wide slashes of sky that stretch endlessly across the prairie seem more than enough for Etsell. But when the opportunity to spend three weeks in Alaska helping a pilot friend presents itself, Etsell accepts and their idyllic world is turned upside down. It's his dream, he reveals, and Danica knows that she can't stand in the way. Ell is on his last flight before heading home when his plane mysteriously vanishes shortly after takeoff, leaving Danica in a free fall. Etsell is gone, but what exactly does gone mean? Is she a widow? An abandoned wife? Or will Etsell find his way home to her? Danica is forced to search for the truth in her marriage and treks to Alaska to grapple with the unanswerable questions about her husband's mysterious disappearance. But when she learns that Ell wasn't flying alone, the bits and pieces of the careful life that she had constructed for them in Iowa take to the wind. A story of love and loss, and ultimately starting over, Far From Here explores the dynamics of intimacy and the potentially devastating consequences of the little white lies we tell the ones we love.

About the author:

Nicole Baart was born and raised in a small town in Iowa.

She and her husband have three young sons. After the adoption of their infant son, Nicole discovered a deep passion for global issues and co-founded a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, that works alongside a church and orphanage in Monrovia, Liberia. After the Leaves Fall and the sequel, Summer Snow (a 2009 Christy Award finalist for excellence in fiction), were Nicole's first books. She is also the author of The Moment Between and Beneath the Night Tree (February 2011), the anticipated conclusion of her first two books. The inspiration for Nicole's next novel was an unsolved murder near her hometown.

Nicole and her family live in Iowa.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Featured Book: The Crystal Prince by Jeanette Clinger Hurley

About the book:

Escape into a world of spellbinding adventure, a world where kindness is king, a world where faith and imagination separate life from death, a world where love is the key that unlocks both mystery and magic… Escape into the world of The Crystal Prince.

Jeanette Clinger Hurley transports you to a land where darkness and light are in constant battle, a place where good & evil equally wage war on the heart…challenging both faith and destiny.

Come along and join the charmed Prince Xabian and the beautiful Jenevieve on their enchanted and courageous journey, as they discover…The heart is mightier than the sword, that faith conquers fear and that the true magical and transformational miracle of life is simple and pure… That love is the way, love is the only way.

About the author:

Jeanette Clinger hurley is an accomplished world-class singer, songwriter, story teller, entrepreneur and lifelong dreamer. As a child she and her family, The Clingers, performed with luminaries such as Bob Hope, Liberace, Sammy Davis Jr. and Gene Kelly to name just a few. In the 90’s, jeanette fronted and recorded with the best selling jazz contemporary artist Hiroshima, as well as recording and touring with Yanni and many others. She’s written, produced and recorded several CD’s of her own with abundant success. The Crystal Prince marks her first foray into children’s literature and her passion and persistence have finally come to fruition in the book you now hold in your hand. Jeanette is a loving wife and proud mother to Logan and London, who are her greatest and proudest accomplishments to date. She currently resides in beautiful Provo, Utah.