Friday, May 24, 2013

Book Review – The Seven Steps to Closure


Hi, folks. It’s time for another book review, and this time it’s something really different.

My Kindle is filled with books right now. Probably ninety percent of it is paranormal fiction. That’s what I write, and that’s what I read. But every now and then I like to branch out, because diversity is important, right? So, sprinkled among the paranormal you’ll find the abnormal science fiction, mystery, thriller – even a biography, historical fiction, or travelogue. But I’ve never strayed so far from the beaten path as I have today.

Today, I’m reviewing Chick Lit.

First of all, I need to defend my manhood. Donna Joy Usher’s The Seven Steps to Closure comes with credentials. It was the winner of the 2012 elit Publishing Award in the humor category and a finalist in the Shirley You Jest! Book Award the same year. It’s also been reviewed favorably by bloggers I’ve come to trust. So, when it went on sale a while back on Amazon for 99 cents, I decided to take the plunge and get in touch with my feminine side.
         So, here goes…
 
                                                    Book Description
     Tara Babcock awakes the morning after her 30th birthday with a hangover that could kill an elephant - and the knowledge she is still no closer to achieving closure on her marriage breakup. Things go from bad to worse when she discovers that, not only is her ex-husband engaged to her cousin - Tash, the woman he left her for - but that Jake is also running for Lord Mayor of Sydney.
    Desperate to leave the destructive relationship behind and with nothing to lose, she decides- with encouragement from her three best friends - to follow the dubious advice from a magazine article, Closure in Seven Easy Steps.
    The Seven Steps to Closure follows Tara on her sometimes disastrous- always hilarious - path to achieve the seemingly impossible.
     A credible and amazingly touching debut novel from Donna Joy Usher, this is a solid, light-hearted and honest read with plenty of laughs.
 
My Review
Chick Lit is not my usual genre, nor do I intend it to be in the future. I’ve had too many years ensconced in the male gender role. But I do enjoy a romantic comedy on DVD now and then and this is the sort of thing from whence those spring, so after running across several reviews of The Seven Steps to Closure and interviews with author Donna Joy Usher on blogs I follow, I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

The story is formulaic, but it’s a good formula, tried and true, and really, you wouldn’t want it any other way. The heroine, Tara, is likeable and suffering from low self-esteem following her divorce from a thoroughly despicable ex. Her group of equally-likeable, quirky BFF’s persuades her to follow the steps to closure outlined in a women’s magazine article and she agrees out of sheer desperation. The process places Tara in a series of comical situations and of course leads to romance in the end.

The book is filled with all the characters and situations you’d expect. I’ve already mentioned the likeable heroine, despicable ex, and the quirky BFF’s. There are also impossibly-bad blind dates, gay hair-dressers, friends coming out of the closet, adorable neurotic pets, hunky love interests, romantic misunderstandings and reconciliations. Most importantly, the story ends with all sorts of warm, fuzzy feelings and hopes for the future. (This is not a spoiler, is it? I mean, I’m not giving anything away, right?)

I enjoyed Usher’s writing. The story was well-paced, and there was a good balance between the action and the internal musings of the main character. It was one of those books where it was hard to find a convenient place to put it down. Usher displays a good sense of humor, too. I rated it four stars, and the only reason I didn’t rate it a bit higher (like, four-and-a-half?) is that so much of the action involves shopping, my own personal hell. Yeah, that’s prejudicial, but it is what it is. I’d recommend it to most women I know. If you’re a guy, well, do what I did. Buy the ebook so nobody can see the cover while you’re reading it.

 
     So that’s it. I stepped out on the limb. It’s a little wobbly, but it didn’t break. Now I’m going to real quick go write a graphically violent scene in Red Wolf Rising, watch some ice hockey on TV, or maybe a Clint Eastwood movie marathon, so I can recover whatever machismo I have left.


And, as always, if you’re looking for a great read – and cheap – click on one of the links below to order one of my books at only $2.99!

Until then… happy reading!

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords

Monday, May 20, 2013

Updates and Excuses


 Hi, folks. Yeah, I know, I’m late. For those of you who faithfully hit my blog over the weekend expecting to find something fresh and new (did you really expect that?!), my apologies. I didn’t do a post like I usually do, and I have nothing specific for today – just some updates and excuses…

I’ll get the excuses out of the way first.

My 14-year-old Seth and I went for a visit to Grandma’s this weekend for three days of R&R. The visit was long overdue, despite the fact that her place is only an hour’s drive away. It’s not because we don’t enjoy her company. Grandma Pat (my Mom) is fun and interesting. She feeds us (direct quote from Seth: “Grandma cooking is always best”), we get to sleep late, and love is doled out in gigantic proportions. But (you might want to sit down for this) Grandma doesn’t have wifi.

I told you to sit down.

This is a huge stress point for Seth, who’s life revolves around his electronic devices, but he went prepared with plenty of video games that didn’t require online connections and even (gasp) a real, honest-to-god, printed book!


But Seth wasn’t the only one to suffer. This old codger has come to rely heavily on his laptop, so I took my guitar and my Kindle to ease the pain of withdrawal. Seth missed his MMOG’s and my blog post had to wait. Yet we both managed to make it through. In fact we had a good time, but you know what we both did first thing when we got home Sunday evening? You guessed it. Our only communication from then on were ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ to each others’ posts on Facebook.

Okay, so that’s the excuse. I promise to make up for it with some extra blogging activity during the next few weeks. Here’s what to look for…

First of all, I need to make an announcement. The release date for my next novel, Red Wolf Rising, has been moved back to the first quarter of 2014. A few folks might be disappointed with the delay, but I promise it will be worth it. Although the writing has been fun, and I’m pleased with the results so far, it has proven to be more of a challenge. This finale to the Red Wolf Trilogy is a more complex work than the previous two, and it will require a more careful editing process.
 
In the months to come, look for updates, cover reveals, and excerpts as well as multiple opportunities to get free copies of the first two novels. And I’ll tell you a secret right now…

Hard times are coming for the Uwharrie Pack as the Red Wolf rises. Some of the major characters won’t survive this episode. Here’s hoping they aren’t your favorites.

We all need to branch out now and then, so soon you’re going to see me get in touch with my feminine side as I review Donna Joy Usher’s chick lit novel, The Seven Steps to Closure. Yeah, I know my manhood is seriously in question, but I enjoyed the book, and I’ll try to recover whatever machismo I still have when I explain why.
 

And I’m still looking for a new coffee shop to replace the beloved local Caribou that was recently closed by the money-grubbing fat cats that now control the corporation. So far, I haven’t found one, but in the next few weeks I’ll either make a decision or give up the quest. Whatever happens, I’ll share it with you – ‘cause I know you’re dying to hear.
 
And, as always, if you’re looking for a great read – and cheap – click on one of the links below to order one of my books at only $2.99!
Until then… happy reading!

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords

Saturday, May 11, 2013

From the Back of Old Paint


 Hi, folks. Last week I blogged about my search for a new coffee shop, my preferred writing venue. My quest isn’t over, and whether you’re interested or not I will let you know how it ends. But today’s blog is a travelogue of sorts. I want to take you along on one of my favorite bike rides around Charlotte, and (whoopee)… I have pictures!

If you fly into Charlotte, it looks like a small cluster of skyscrapers bursting out of the forest. There’s a reason for that. Those of us who pound the pavement or drive the traffic-clogged streets day in and day out forget how much green there is around here. And this time of year (early May), it is simply gorgeous. So, with a Friday off and the weather forecast rainless and warm, I decided to take my camera phone and cycle over to my favorite greenway near Pineville.
The Four Mile Creek and McMullen Creek greenways are connected to form a nearly six-mile escape from reality between Rea Road and Pineville. Getting there by bicycle is a little hazardous, but the trip is worth it. I try to make it at least three or four times during the spring and summer season.
       The first thing to do is saddle up Old Paint. Old Paint is a green Diamond Back Response, a low-end hard tail mountain bike who’s been with me a little over five years. He’s in need of a tune up if I were to take him on any serious trails, but he’ll have no trouble with the streets and greenways of the Queen City today. We’re packing three frozen bottles of water, sunscreen, a towel, and extra t-shirt (which will be essential later in the summer), some trail mix, and my Kindle.
My normal route is out Monroe Road, then Highway 51 to Rea Road, where the greenway starts near Piper Glen. But today I need to detour through the little town of Matthews to stop by the post office to send off a Mother’s Day card. So I’ll head out of Mathews on Trade Street and cut over to Hwy 51 via Fullwood Lane. I also want to detour by the Mathews Community Garden, a little patch of vegetables right along the highway, to see what they’re planting this year.
       Charlotte is not a bike-friendly town. Sidewalks for pedestrians are an afterthought along some streets. It’s pedal-to-the-metal from traffic light to traffic light, and cyclists beware. Luckily, Highway 51 runs through a side of town with golf courses and affluent neighborhoods, so there’s a sidewalk I can ride on to minimize the risks. But, I’m not there yet, and I’m reminded of the danger as I cycle out of Matthews on South Trade where the road narrows and traffic picks up speed.
But as I turn onto Fullwood, I see a rare sight here in NASCAR country, a bike lane! Ironically, there’s not much traffic along this section of road, and the bike lane runs out as soon as the traffic picks up again. Another tribute to the oxymoron that is Charlotte city planning.
Once I reach Hwy 51, I hit the sidewalk and breathe more easily. I can relax and enjoy the sights along the way. I see realtors setting up for an office BBQ, golfers teeing off at Raintree Country Club, and a group of guys playing touch football on the expansive campus of one of the huge churches along the way. The only major danger point from here to the greenway is the Arboretum Shopping Center at the crossroads of Hwy 51 and Providence Road. All the drivers here are on their cell phones, all of them.
     After riding for about an hour-and-a-half, I arrive safely at the Four Mile Creek Greenway. I stop for a coffee and Kindle break at the Starbucks conveniently located across the street from the end of the greenway. The sun is high in the early afternoon and I sit, sip, and read at one of the tables outside. There is a soft breeze blowing. Life is good.
The next few hours are blissful. There is plenty of activity on the greenway – joggers, walkers, young moms pushing strollers, cyclists – but not the heavy traffic one finds on Saturdays and Sundays. The air is filled with puffy little parachute seedlings blowing from some type of tree that I can’t identify, and in some places it’s almost like it’s snowing, and the pathway looks lined with fluffy cotton. There’s lots of flora and fauna, and I take as many pictures as I can, wishing for the umpteenth time I had a better camera.
Eventually I reach the end of the line, and I sit and munch on some trail mix, drink some of the ice-cold water in my cache, and read at a picnic table near the McMullen Creek access parking lot. Before climbing back on Old Paint for the return trip, I have a brief, panicky thought. I have squandered a day off where I could have been writing!
        I haven’t. My spirit has been renewed from having been outside all day, and fresh ideas have been bouncing around in my brain as I pedaled along. I know eventually they’ll make their way to the page… in their own time.
Well, I hope you didn’t mind this little break from talking about the Red Wolf novels like I usually do. I promise more of Clifford Crane and the gang in the near future.
Until then… Happy Reading!

   Of course I do need to include the usual, shameless promotion of my books. Four and five-star reviews are piling up for both of them. eBooks are only $2.99, and you can purchase one by clicking on one of the links below the cover image of your choice.

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords

Friday, May 3, 2013

Quest For Coffee Part One


 Hey, folks. Thanks for dropping by. You know, time flies when you’re having fun, and this week has certainly affirmed the saying. There has been a gratifying flurry of activity in the form of “like’s” on my Red Wolf Novels Facebook page, and I’ve been sending out a slew of books from giveaways on Julie's Book Reviews and A Page Away, and another five-star review appeared on Amazon for The Dragon of Doughton Park.
 
                                                                    A Page Away
 
Also, I’ve been writing!

Ooooh, have I been writing. I’m nearly done with part one of Red Wolf Rising, and I’m delighted with what my characters have gotten themselves into so far. I think you will, too.

But… I’ve got a problem.

A biiiiiiiig problem.

My favorite coffee shop closed down a few weeks ago, victim of the mass-closings across the country by Caribou Coffee. Now, I could go on a justifiable rant about the greed of multinational corporations and heartless corporate fat cats, but I won’t. I could blog on and on about the devastating economic impact on the real, hard-working, friendly folks whose livelihood depended on these stores and the uncaring attitude of the corporation for those wonderful people and their customers alike, but that’s not what this is about. This is about me.

It's all about me.
 
 
What am I going to do? I didn’t even drink coffee three years ago when I set up an appointment to interview a friend of mine who worked at a Starbucks. One of the characters in my Red Wolf series (Danielle in The Draculata Nest) was a barista, and I needed some background material. During the interview, I sampled the product. Not bad.

I visited other coffee shops around town and sampled their wares. I got hooked. And one day I stumbled upon a Caribou Coffee right up the street from my apartment. I found my drink of choice, a medium white chocolate mocha with soy, and I found my home away from home. I got to know the baristas. I started bringing my laptop with me when I came in.
 
I wrote the bulk of the second two-thirds of The Draculata Nest sitting in the light open space of that coffee shop, watching the customers come and go and listening to a pleasant mix of musical genres on their sound system. (Those of you who’ve read The Draculata Nest might notice the baristas mentioned in the dedication.) I wrote most of the sequel there, too. I started on the third book.

And then one day, on my way out of town for a road trip to do research for Red Wolf Rising, I stopped by for a drink to go and there was a sign announcing the shop would close the next day. I asked Summer, the manager/barista, why. She shrugged. I asked her what she was going to do, and her eyes misted over as she shrugged again.

Customers were in line behind me so I resisted the urge to leap over the counter and give her a hug. Later that evening I used the wifi in my hotel room to google Caribou, and I found out what was going on. But I was out of town for the store-closing party they had. I never even got to say goodbye.
 

That coffee shop was a huge part of my life for nearly three years. How do I find closure? Where can I find good cup o’ joe? Worse, will I ever be able to write again? My Quest for Coffee continues… in my next post.
 
     Until then… Happy Reading!

     Oh, and of course I need to include the usual, shameless promotion of my books. Four and five-star reviews are piling up for both of them. eBooks are only $2.99, and you can purchase one by clicking on one of the links below the cover image of your choice.

The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------
Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle    ebook for Nook    ebook for Kobo    in Paperback
in Charlotte    Smashwords