Required Reading

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Books I have authored.

Many times I receive books for FREE to give them an honest review. I do not get paid to give a good or bad review. Spotlights are promotional and should be regarded as advertising for the book spotlighted. Regardless of where or how I got a book, my review will be as honest as I can make it.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Guest Post by Buying Time Author Pamela Samuels Young

Digging Out of a Writing Slump

You’ve been working on your novel for months, maybe even years, and lately you feel more discouraged than ever. Perhaps it’s the disappointment of not having finished the book yet. Maybe you don’t know where to go next with your story. Or it’s possible that you’re just physically and emotional drained from all the time and effort you’ve poured into this dream. I’ve been there!

Occasionally falling into a writing slump isn’t reason for alarm. What’s important is that you don’t stay there too long. Here are five tips for re-energizing yourself when you feel like giving up.

■ Read Inspirational Stories About Writing and Writers

Take a writing break and read about successful writers who weathered the storm. Here are two excellent books to get you started:

"Knit Together: Discovery God’s Pattern for Your Life" by Debbie Macomber.

This book was such an inspiration to me. Macomber, a best selling writer with more than 100 million books in print, openly shares her story of writing rejection. Once you read about her writing journey, you’ll close the book anxious to get back to your own novel.

"Rotten Reviews & Rejections", edited by Bill Henderson and Andre Bernard. This book shares the rejection letters and stinging reviews received by many successful and prolific writers, from Stephen King to Upton Sinclair to James Joyce and more. You’ll scratch your head at the discouraging rejection letters these wonderful writers received. They didn’t give up, and you shouldn’t either.

■ Don’t Strive for Perfect Prose

Many new writers think that everything that flows from their fingertips must be golden. Hence, if they write a few pages that don’t sound worthy of a Pulitzer, they’re disappointed. Forget about writing a perfect prose right out of the box. The most important part of writing is rewriting. Just concentrate on finishing your first draft. Then revise until you’re pleased with the final product.

■ Set a Writing Goal

Make a commitment to write a set number of pages per week. Can you commit to writing 10 or 15 pages per week? Or perhaps writing three hours a day or three days a week works better for you. Whatever goal you set, make sure it’s realistic. Start out small and once you get into the flow of things, increase your goal. And if you fall short one week, don’t beat yourself up. There’s always next week.

■ Start a Writer’s Group

Put the word out that you’re looking to start a writer’s group. Tell friends, family members and colleagues that you’re looking for three or four serious writers who would like to build a supportive writing environment for themselves and other writers. You’ll probably have a lot of interest in the beginning, but only the serious writers will be around for the long haul. Establish a regular meeting time (at least once a month) and require at least two members to produce work for the group to critique each month.

■ Think About Your Story

Most people assume that if you’re not putting words on paper, then you’re not “writing.” I don’t feel that way. The next time you’re taking a long walk, standing in a grocery store line, or stuck in traffic, use the time to mull over your story. Think about your characters or your plot. Imagine your protagonist having a conversation. Think about how you might describe a room. Challenge yourself to invent a predicament that creates conflict for your character. If you come up with some great ideas, don’t forget to write them down.

Pamela Samuels Young is a Los Angeles-area attorney and the author of four legal thrillers. Her latest release, Buying Time, is her first stand-along novel. A former television news writer, Pamela is the Fiction Expert for and is on the Board of Directors of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. To contact Pamela or to read an excerpt of her books, visit For more writing tips from Pamela, visit

Friday, February 26, 2010

Buying Time" by Pamela Samuels Young Interview

An Interview with Pamela Samuels Young, Author of “Buying Time”.

We are fortunate to have Ms. Young take the time away from both her law career and her writing to answer a few questions.

1.) Looking at your Bio, you seem highly successful in your law career. Why did you write this book? What initiated this particular burst of creativity?
The idea for Buying Time came to me while chatting with a friend at a party. I knew he was in the insurance business, but when he explained that he was a viatical broker, I started asking lots of questions because I’d never heard of the viatical industry. When he finished explaining how he brokers the insurance policies of terminally ill patients, I knew there was a thriller in there someone. On the ride home, I thought to myself: What if a disbarred lawyer stumbles into the viatical business and his clients start dying before their time and he becomes the prime murder suspect? The rest is history.

2.) Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?
My story ideas either come to me out of nowhere or are spurred by something I’ve heard or read. The best ideas usually hit me while I’m stuck in traffic. I’ll rack my brain for days trying to come up with a twist for a particular scene, and nine times out of ten, my light bulb moment will happen while I’m in my car stuck in rush-hour traffic.

3.) Is your process to outline and then fill in the blanks or just sit down and start to tell a story or ?
I will spend anywhere from a few weeks to as long as three months outlining a book before I sit down to write. I also mull over my story quite a bit. I'm thinking about it in the shower, while I'm standing in line at the grocery store, and during my 45-minute commute to work. Even during the outlining stage, I can almost see each chapter as if it were a scene in a movie. Only after I have a completed outline do I start writing. And when I write, I go from page one to the last page without doing much editing along the way. For me, it's psychologically motivating to complete that first draft, even if it's so bad I'd never dare show it to anyone. Once I have a first draft, then the real writing starts. I revise, and revise and revise some more. That process can last six months or more.

4.) Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why?
Dre is definitely my favorite character. Although he’s a “bad guy,” he has a good guy’s soul. He’s also a man’s man with his own set of ethics. While you may not agree with the life he’s leading, there’s something about the person he is inside that makes you want to like him.

5.) What do you like the most about writing?
I like imagining characters in my head and seeing them come to life. I also like the solitary nature of writing. It’s just me, my laptop and my imaginary characters.

6.) What advice has helped the most in your writing?
One of the most helpful writing classes I took was a one-day workshop at the UCLA Writers Program in Los Angeles. The instructor urged the class to outline a novel in their genre. That was a great idea. I outlined John Grisham’s The Firm. Taking the book apart chapter by chapter helped me learn a great deal about story structure. From there, I began regularly dissecting the books that I read. I studied the dialogue, the action, the description, the length of the chapters, how the authors opened and closed each chapter. I asked myself: Why did I race through this book at lightning speed?

After structurally dissecting several books, I came up with four techniques that I apply to each of my novels: 1) begin the book with something explosive that will immediately grab readers’ attention and pull them into the story; 2) hook readers at the end of the every chapter so that they are dying to know what happens next; 3) keep the chapters short, which makes readers feel as if they’re moving through the book at a faster pace than they really are; and 4) read the finished manuscript into a tape recorder and listen to the story as if it were a book on tape (editing while listening). It’s amazing the kinds of writing flaws that you can “hear” but not “see”. These techniques have helped me create novels that I’m proud to say are consistently described as page turners.

7.) Who is your favorite author and why?
I enjoy way too many writers to pick just one! These days, I’m an avid reader of mysteries. My favorite writers in the mystery genre include Walter Mosley, Greg Iles, Sandra Brown, Tami Hoag, James Patterson, Valerie Wilson Wesley, and John Grisham. I love a good plot and I think all of these writers write very entertaining novels. I also enjoy women’s fiction and I'll buy anything Terry McMillan decides to write.

8.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer?
First, master your craft! Take the time to study writing the same way you would study any other profession. Also, read like a writer. When you read a book you enjoy, study the author’s writing style and the book’s story structure. Ask yourself why the book was a great read.

Second, don’t let rejection keep you from pursuing your dream. Most successful authors experienced years of rejection. John Grisham, for instance, received 45 rejection letters and self-published A Time to Kill because people told him no one wanted to read about lawyers. How wrong they were! So if you think you have a marketable book, don’t give up on your dream.

Pamela, thank you so much for your insightful remarks. I hope my readers got as much out of it as I did. As a fledgling author, I am profoundly grateful for the insight I get by interviewing a successful novelist. I will attempt emulation of the answers particularly, in question number six.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Shadow Blade by Seressia Glass

Kira Solomon starts the story as a troubled teen. She is manifesting forces that she finds inexplicable, torn from her adopted home she ends up in an island castle. She finds acceptance of her gifts and finds her thrust into the role of a chaser of nightmares.

Kira is believable as a butt thumping action heroine who doesn’t put a great deal of stock in her heroic persona. If you have read any of my reviews, you know I do favor the strong female protagonist. I liked Kira and the story line. This has serious fantasy components intermingled with urban life. I’m looking forward to seeing more work from Seressia Glass.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Seressia Glass

Web Site:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Buying Time by Pamela Samuels Young

Angela Evans is an assistant U. S. Attorney who loses an associate to suspected murder while on assignment. She sets out on a quest to find his killer and on that quest finds love, separation, danger and redemption.

Pamela Samuels Young is flat out brilliant. This is an excellent story and as a debut novel, it is outstanding. The characters are clearly portrayed and practically anyone will find a character they know. Waverly Sloan is well portrayed as a basically good person who gets in way over his head. The viatical industry is explained clearly. The reverse mortgage concept applied to life insurance is so new that many readers may be surprised at how wide spread it is. The mystery remained mysterious and the multiple story lines were tied together adroitly. I look forward to future books by Young.

I highly recommend the book.

Body of work of Pamela Samuels Young

Web Site:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Coming of the Storm by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear

Black Shell and Pearl Hand, Native Americans, discover that the “Kristanos” are not quite what they seem. This story addresses the clash between the disparate cultures of Europe and America. The violence and storm is seen through the eyes of the Native Americans as opposed to the often typical portrayal seen thorough the eyes of the “heroic” invaders.

Black Shell isn’t just a stereotyped noble savage but a living breathing, empathetic human being who has been raised in a culture that is certainly different that both my own and that of the now recognized barbaric invaders. The Gears are hard to categorize. I couldn’t put down The Warriors of Spider series or The Forbidden Series. Both books were die in the wool, hard core, how much do I love it, SciFi. This book is good, it is a dramatically different genre but the essence of all their books is the distilled essence of humanity. The Gears depict humanity as well or better than anyone else regardless of the time or planet.

I highly recommend the book.

Body of work of W. Michael Gear
Body of work of Kathleen O’Neal Gear

Web Site:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spider’s Bite by Jennifer Estep

Spider’s bite is truly fatal. Cross this girl and you may end up stoned or flat out dead. An assassin with magical talent, Gin is a rock solid protagonist with very flexible morals. Dark, gritty urban fantasy at it’s best.

You don’t have to read many of my reviews to discover I favor the strong female protagonist. This strong female is more than a bit scary. A ruthless approach to life, you would be hard pressed to find elemental magic more diametrically different than Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters. Two dramatically different styles and yet I really enjoyed both. This book may defy you to put it down and if you are smart you will read it in one sitting, otherwise you are going to be living a disrupted life until you finish it.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Jennifer Estep

Web Site:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Surrender None, The Legacy of Gird By Elizabeth Moon

In a land far, far away, evil overlords trample on the rights and lives of the poor peasants. Oddly enough the peasants take severe umbrage to this and revolt. This book details the causes of the rebellion, sets up a protagonist to lead the rebellion and details the successes and failures of said rebellion. Unusual in this genre is the awareness that something has to fill the void if the government is thrown down. The detailing of what to do and how to do it fills the pages. The angst suffered by Gird and his willingness to suffer for his people make up the focus of the story. Moon has the ability to define protagonists clearly, illustrating not only their strengths but their weaknesses. Her characterizations are detailed, believable and enjoyable. I found the ending unsettling and felt she could have closed this book with a bit more detail. Regardless, I really enjoyed the book and look forward to starting the sequel, “Liar’s Oath”.

Body of work of Elizabeth Moon


Web site:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pearl S. Buck House Writers Conference

Put it on your calendar!


At the PEARL S. BUCK HOUSE, A National Historic Landmark®

I'll be there with my books!

TimeGods World by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Query was a strange world lacking resources. Query was a violent world with class clashes that resulted in a unified world of time travelers dependent on the Guard for everything. Soul searching philosophy generally accompanies the action and adventure in a Modesitt book.

This is a twin book, encompassing “Timediver’s Dawn” and “The TimeGod”. Modesitt’s books make you think. You have to ponder the relationships between action and re-action. Is vengeance a satisfactory method of solving problems? How do ethics stand up to survival? That sounds suspiciously like philosophy which does characterize all of his books. I don’t know that I have read all of his books, but I have certainly made a valiant attempt. While forcing you to think, Modesitt keeps you entertained with a solid plot and lots of action.

I highly recommend it.

Body of work of L.E. Modesitt,jr.

Review of the book:


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Kitty’s House of Horrors by Carrie Vaughn

Kitty is a radio talk show host. She deals with paranormal questions on her show. She is invited to a retreat with other paranormal experts. Oh, yeah, Kitty is a werewolf.

Once again, I am surprised. I was very dubious as to my liking this book. I really enjoyed it. Mz. Vaughn does a great job fleshing out the characters. You find yourself pondering the ramifications of being a supernatural being. Intolerance is highlighted and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to extrapolate the obvious relationship to realities intolerances. The story has plenty of action and enough twists to satisfy most mystery fans. It was hardly a surprise to find vampires involved although at most they were bit players. I will seek out and read more of the Kitty series. It isn’t a cerebrally challenging book but it has beaucoup entertainment value.

I highly recommend the book.

Body of work of Carrie Vaughn

Web Site:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Bavarian Gate by John Dalmas

Curtis Macurdy becomes involved in World War II, meets some new aliens, returns to Yuulith, comes back to Farside(Earth) and settles some issues. Between action events, Curtis gets married again.

Dalmas writes a good story. Curtis is likeable and accepts his extraordinary powers without any difficulty. I like the way he cares about individuals and agonizes over the need to be violent and yet steps up to the plate when necessary. In an afterword, Dalmas states he writes to entertain and he doesn’t feel it necessary to over-research a topic. I did read some criticism in regards to his lack of detail on military equipment. My thoughts are if he was writing a historical treatise on the precise nature of military equipment he would be more accurate. His lack of pretensions and pontificating are positively refreshing after the self serving arrogance shown by some authors.

I liked the book, I like the series and I recommend it.

Body of work of John Dalmas


Web site:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Writers Conference At the Pearl S. Buck House April 10, 2010

I will have my books and be signing them at this conference. I am one of the 30 authors noted below. I'll be the one dressed in scarlet tights with a big L on my chest. LOL. Seriously, I will be there I hope I will be the one with a humungous crowd around my table. again LOL. Check out the conference it should be fun.



At the PEARL S. BUCK HOUSE, A National Historic Landmark®

9:30: Fiction Developing Characters Sandra Cody
OR Self-Help: How to Market Beyond the Bookstore Sue Zoglio

10:45 Memoirs: Writing Your Life Linda Wisniewski
OR Writing For Children: What You Need To Know Chrysa Smith

12:00 Lunch Break ~ Light Lunch Available/Brown Bag Own

1:00 Fiction Writing: Killer Fiction Cordelia Frances Biddle
OR Business Writing: Publishing/Promoting Kimberly Thompson

2:15 Journal Writing: More Than A Diary Esther Hughes
OR News Writing: Fundamentals Of Good Writing Jeff Gammage

3:30 PANEL:
Mike Sielski: How To Interview For Writing
Anne Kaler, PhD.: How To Write For Academia
Marie Duess: How To Write History
Pat Achilles: How To Work With An Illustrator
Mary Fran Bontempo: How To Write A Column

Download Registration Forms at: - search for Events/Writers Conference
• $35 for Morning & Afternoon Package – includes Author’s Reception on April 9 - ($45 at Door)
• $20 for Separate Morning Session - ($25 at Door)
• $20 for Separate Afternoon Session - ($25 at Door)
• $5 Meet over 30 Authors. Does not include workshops or panel.

For advance registration or information contact: Helen Wolf: or 215-794-2562

Pearl S. Buck ~ Green Hills Farm
520 Dublin Road (Hilltown Twp)
Perkasie, PA 18944
215-249-100 – Community Events/Writers Conference

Handicapped Accessible -- Ample Free Parking


Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Protector’s War by S. M. Stiriling

The Mackenzie’s and the Bear Killers become more proactive in this book. Instead of waiting for the Protector to bring the war to them they do a little reaching out and touching someone themselves. The Lorings, a British family, is added to the mix insuring that we are brought up to speed on other parts of the world. Rudi shows signs of being a mystic and Juniper’s religion seems to become far more real.

I liked the introduction of the Lorings due to the appeal of the characters. It seems like there should have been an easier way to introduce a love element to Juniper’s life. The friction between Mike and Signe over Rudi seems very realistic. This book plodded rather than galloped like the first book. That isn’t as big a criticism as it sounds. There seemed to be a stronger attempt at more floral descriptions, detailing the environment than in the first book. This is still an excellent saga of post-apocalypse societ.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of S. M. Stirling


Web Site:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

School Days by Robert B. Parker

A Columbine shooting at a private school provides the setting for this story. Spenser is hired to prove the innocence of one of the shooters.

I enjoyed the book but it seemed like it was Robert Parker Light, less taste and less filling. It had a good story line and the plot was good but it just didn’t seem to have enough meat on the bones. I’ve noticed that when I’m hungry my analogies all seem food related. One of my favorite aspects of Parker’s Spenser novels is the verbal repartee between Hawk and Spenser. Since Hawk was not a participant in this story that was missing. This is not a beach book, this more like finish it in one sitting while waiting in the dentist’s office. This was a very short, very quick read, too light and too quick to be satisfying.

Body of work of Robert B. Parker



Monday, February 1, 2010

Caught In The Crossfire by David Drake

A selection of short stories that feature Hammer’s Slammers, the most celebrated mercenary tank outfit in military science fiction.

I generally don’t read books of short stories. I always make exceptions for my favorite authors. David Drake always entertains and frequently causes poignant reflection. Military scifi sounds as if it is just a literary rendition of the first person shooter video games. Drake paints characters that are not always likeable but they are almost always memorable. Slick Des Grieux is a tanker that you would love to have in front of you, definitely wouldn’t want behind you and covering your back wouldn’t be an option. However if you want to define the meaning of hell for the opposing forces, his name would be synonymous with the devil. A memorable and highly un-likeable character, Slick is just one of Drake’s creations. .

I recommend the book.

Body of work of David Drake

Review none found

Web Site: