Posted in Winners on April 28, 2010

and the winner is….

Carol M

Congratulations and look for an email from me later today so that I can get your mailing address and send you this great book.

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Posted in Winners on April 12, 2010

Pam R!  I will be emailing you for your address so look for the email.  If she doesn’t respond in 48 hours I will draw a new name.

Drawing thanks to

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2010-04-12 22:56:21 UTC

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Posted in P.S. Barta, Political thriller, suspense, Washington DC on April 11, 2010

P.S. Barta has been telling engaging stories since childhood, when she often entertained friends and younger relatives with tales of mystery and intrigue. She then enhanced her skills through participation in live theatre, where she was nominated for a local acting award. Her professional life started with positions in visual arts, but soon included writing copy and promotional materials. Diverting into a career in computer support and training, she has returned to her love of stories with the publication of A Case of Intent.

Though she wrote the initial manuscript in 1999, she polished the story after living in Washington, D.C., while attending American University earning a M.A. in producing film and video in 2005. When not promoting her novel, she works as a media producer and freelance writer in the Indianapolis Metro area.

Interview with P.S. Barta

The author was kind enough to answer some of my questions, they must have been good because she said they made her think!

SBR: What made you choose a political thriller setting for your novel?

Barta: I didn’t set out to write a political thriller, the story developed into a political thriller early on as the story started being about lies, betrayal, and secrets – something I was working through in my personal life at the time. When a career in computer support and training ended I knew I needed to keep myself active so I enrolled in college to finish a degree abandoned several years earlier. I took a creative writing class. I was under deadline to turn in a major assignment, but hadn’t written a word, so I went to bed. That morning I was awaken by a police helicopter outside my eighth floor apartment searching the river below and the story started to form. This was 1999 when many were walking around mumbling ‘but he lied’ and a few months after the U.S. did close an embassy in Austria in protest of the Austrian Freedom Party. Facts connected, I tossed in some of my own experiences and love for Washington, D.C., and the story took flight.

SBR: Did you have to do a lot of research in writing the book?  And why did you wait 10 years after initially writing the story to seek in having it published?

Barta: I did do a lot of research or self education while writing this book. Since it was started in 1999, before the 9/11/01 attacks, and Internet sites were still new, I could get into the Center on Terrorism Research, CIA, State Department, British military sites, and get in-depth information. During a revision a couple of years ago, many of these sources have been closed down or are just PR. The library also had some books then on weapons, opera, books of names and the like. I also interviewed people with special knowledge as well as started my own poll on people’s thoughts on lies and how we deal with them.

As to why I took 10 years, I tried to secure an agent, or publisher several times between writing ‘the end’ the first time and when New Century agreed to publish it. Then while living in Washington, D.C. in 2003-05, through the Bush presidency, I sensed an undertone of unspoken discontent in the frequency of perceived lies by public figures and media. So I put a film project I was attempting to finance in the drawer and took out “A Case of Intent.” David Caswell at New Century liked it and by the end of the year we had it in print.

SBR: Is Nancy something of a psychic?  There was at least 1 reference to her ability that I saw in the book.

Barta: Nancy is spiritually aware, someone who lives her connection with the Universal Infinite or Source (God) and being so is connected to the energy that flows through, around and connects us all, and trusts her inner knowing and ‘real’ dreams. Those who are unfamiliar with this practice may call her psychic. But to me everyone has the ability to connect to this energy, through prayer, meditation and inner listening. Helen and Nancy attend a New Thought service — the winged planet is the symbol of Unity, headquartered in Kansas City, MO. , and the sermon is typical spiritual metaphysics.

SBR: Is Nancy anything like you?  and if so, in what ways?

Barta: Actually Nancy and the James brothers have elements of me in their characters. Nancy and I both have dark curly hair, larger frame, and have the ability to ‘connect the dots’ and question the environment around us. The James brother share my propensity to either play totally by the rules or play outside the line if the situation warrants it. However all three are different from me and have their own personalities, reactions, desires. It was strange how I was able to give them a base but soon through the telling of the story they all developed their own identity. Sometimes it felt like they were in the room recounting something they went through and I was only the scribe, the observer to their lives.

SBR: What author(s) influenced you growing up?  Did you have a favorite author, if so who?

Barta: When I was young my aunt bought me a card game called Authors. This game was a matching game and each card had an image and bio of notable authors from the ages – Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, Emily Dickenson, you can guess the list. A decade of two later I started watching movie version of these classic stories.  I loved movies from the first one I saw.  In many ways movies were the modern literature of the twentieth century. Of course I read some of these and other authors in school, then on my own. For a few years I started to travel a lot and decided to start reading on the plane. I started with the classics – and realized that the movie often didn’t give the book justice – then on to popular authors like Janet Evanovich, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Dan Brown. Once I decided I wanted to publish, I started reading any first novel I could find. A favorite? No, it is the story and the story telling that I enjoy – the suspension of belief and this fictional dream that is created. If the author can stay true to the reality of their story and how they present it, then I enjoy it, take delight in it, and learn from it.

SBR: Who are some of your favorite authors today?  Do they fall into a specific genre?

Barta: Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes for their “Full” series, the zany characters and comedy; I’m an Austin fan – both book and BBC…actually I enjoy the writing of television series, like “Castle” (Heat Wave didn’t live up to the show), the dialogue and characters work with the not too close look at the crime, so the comedy works, but enough mystery to drive the story. I appreciated series like “Gilmore Girls”, “Jag”, “NCIS”, “M.A.S.H.” Not authors who work on the printed page, but good storytelling just the same. Recently, a friend shared Noble Intentions by Katie Macalister, which I found enjoyable and intriguing. I also read a lot of non-fiction and how-to books, for research.

SBR: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Barta: Now that I’ve been through the process I understand that writing a novel is about passion – to either tell a story or make a statement or both. So if the would-be novelist doesn’t have a very strong desire to tell the story or make the statement, then he ‘will be writing a book’ for a very long time.

It is good to workshop your work, but you must temper listening to the workshop with following your judgment. Not to say there aren’t rules or requirements for good storytelling, and the first timer should learn to master these before he breaks them. But workshop participants, even the leader (who should be a published author with some significant sales in his library), come from their own skill set and likes. There often is someone who is nervous about sharing and will criticize everyone’s work to make an impression or feel his own worth. So listen, but evaluate their advice, try to understand what the more experienced people tell you.

Once ‘the end’ is written, and at least one revision completed, take a break from the story and clear your perspective. During this time you might want to take seminars, attend conferences, and read books on the publishing industry. This is also when you should plan out for yourself what it will look like if you novel is printed – who is the audience, regional or national, do you see this as a block buster or a quieter first book, are you willing to hold out for a full commercial publisher to pick it up or are you interested in subsidy or self-publishing? The more answers you write out, the easier it is in getting the right agent or publisher, negotiating what you want. When it seems right, go back revise again. Then start looking for an agent or small press. The book will never seem completed, and it is common to want to keep writing and revising, but resist. At some point every parent has to send their child out into the world, the same with a book. Can a book really be called a book without an audience, without having readers?

Now for the Review of A Case of Intent:

From the back of the book:  Detesting lies and attempting to change her life, Nancy Drew Peerson is now an intern for Washington National Opera, living in her godparents’ condo in Crystal City, Virginia, and working hard to suppress old habits. However the stranger she meets and events for the Blue Danube Recital will lead her face to face with her past, her identity, and the worst lie of all–the one to herself.

“A Case of Intent” weaves a story set in 1999 Washington, D.C., that follows a woman who has decided to change her life and career by attending a master’s program at American University. Leaving the world of undercover law enforcement, she had developed a disdain for any lie. The story is a dramatic telling of her attempt at transformation on one level, and at another level a study of lies and truth that we all encounter, leading the reader into an examination of truth — both factual and metaphysical — in our daily lives.

Normally I will breeze through books in a day or two depending on my schedule, however this book took a little longer to read (which is not a bad thing!).  There are several other story lines that are present in the first half of the book before the various parts start coming together and you get the full picture of what is going on in this novel.  This can be confusing if you aren’t paying attention, hence why it took a few extra days to read this book.  I liked that the main character, Nancy, was a confident women especially as you learned some details of her past.  There is a romance with one of the James brothers that seemed a little crazy at the start of the relationship.  The book is set in DC and Nancy is chasing her godparent’s dog and he manages to catch the dog until Nancy catches up.  He invites her to dinner in his home and she accepts.  While Nancy may have a certain awareness, was this really smart since she just met the man?  He could have been a psychopath…which really would have just been another twist to the story.  And yes I know, this is a novel and not real life but I seem to get wrapped up in the characters and what they are doing and how I would react if I were in that position.

As the author answered in the above question, there are lies all throughout the book.  These lies told to Nancy had an impact on who she was and what she decided to do with her life.  The lies also put her and others into unnecessary jeopardy.  Because it is a political thriller, some would probably say it is because it was for the security of the nation and others, but at what point does the lying stop?  And even if it was to protect Nancy, she is a grown woman that should be able to decide for herself.  Other characters realize this towards the end of the book that lying to Nancy just wasn’t a wise move!

I enjoyed the book because it really made me think and try to understand why things happen the way they do in government.  While this is a novel, I’m sure that situations like this do happen that the public does not know about.  If you decide to read this book, make sure you take your time to be able to understand all of the characters and the various subplots.

Read the first 15 pages here

The Giveaway

I am giving away the copy of the book the author sent me to review.  The contest is open to any US or Canadian residents and you can enter until April 25th at 12pm CST when I will draw the winner.

Gain an extra entry if you post about this on your blog, just leave that information so I can check it out.

Posted in Kate White, suspense on March 31, 2010

Kate White is best known as the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine and several bestselling career bibles including Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead…but Gutsy Girls Do and 9 Secrets of Women who Get Everything They Want. Then in 2002 she decided to try her hand at mystery novels and scored a hit with If Looks Could Kill featuring Bailey Weggins. There have been several follow up books in the series which have also hit the bestseller list and the books have been optioned by Lions Gate Pictures.

In her new novel, she breaks from her series involving Bailey Weggins and introduces us to Lake Warren.  Lake is in the process of divorcing her husband and gearing up for a fierce custody battle.  At least she had a good job in a fertility clinic as a marketing consultant but a one night fling with the flirtatious Doctor Keaton turns her world upside down when he is found murdered and Lake fears becoming the prime suspect.  When things at the clinic get strange, Lake looks into the murder herself because somebody is hiding something…but she may be in for more than she envisioned.

My Review:

I could not put this book down, it had me hooked from about chapter 4 when Lake found Keaton murdered in his own bed.  As I continued to read I tried to figure out who was behind everything.  I would think it was one character or another at various times but I was never right and the ending was quite a surprise.  I do think that Lake put herself into more jeopardy than necessary by not informing the police of what had happened at various times throughout the book but understood why she may not have wanted to put herself under scrutiny by police that might act first and think later.

The Giveaway portion:

I have a copy of this book to giveaway to any resident of the US & Canada.  To enter, leave a comment with your email address, no email address, you aren’t entered!

You can gain a second entry if you have a blog and blog about it and send people here to sign up.  Leave a 2nd message with your blog info so I can check it out.

This contest will run until Sunday, April 11th.

Good Luck

Posted in contest on March 15, 2010

Another giveaway by my friend Andi!  Check out her site to win This One is Mine by Maria Semple

Violet Parry is living the quintessential life of luxury in the Hollywood Hills with David, her rock-and-roll manager husband, and her darling toddler, Dot. She has the perfect life–except that she’s deeply unhappy. David expects the world of Violet but gives little of himself in return. When she meets Teddy, a roguish small-time bass player, Violet comes alive, and soon she’s risking everything for the chance to find herself again. Also in the picture are David’s hilariously high-strung sister, Sally, on the prowl for a successful husband, and Jeremy, the ESPN sportscaster savant who falls into her trap.

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Posted in contest on March 15, 2010

Hop on over to my friend Andi’s site for a chance to win Slip of the Knife by Denise Mina

Paddy Meehan is no stranger to murder–as a reporter she lives at crime scenes–but nothing has prepared her for this visit from the police. Her former boyfriend and fellow journalist Terry Patterson has been found hooded and shot through the head. Paddy knows she will be of little help–she had not seen Terry in more than six months. So she is bewildered to learn that in his will he has left her his house and several suitcases full of notes. Drawn into a maze of secrets and lies, Paddy begins making connections to Terry’s murder that no one else has seen, and soon finds herself trapped in the most important–and dangerous–story of her career.

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Posted in Cozy on March 10, 2010

Cleo Coyle is the pen name for Alice Alfonsi, who writes with her husband, Marc Cerasini.   They write a cozy series called the Coffeehouse mysteries.  While I’m not a coffee addict like some, the descriptions of the various drinks, types of coffee and methods makes me want to take up drinking coffee!  But a tea drinker I will remain.

The books (in order)

  • On What Grounds (2003)
  • Through the Grinder (2004)
  • Latte Trouble (2005)
  • Murder Most Frothy (2006)
  • Decaffineated Corpse (2007)
  • French Pressed (2008)
  • Espresso Shot (2009, hardback 2008)
  • Holiday Grind (2009)

The books feature Claire Cosi who is the manager of the coffee shop, her ex-husband Matteo and daughter Joy.  There is also detective Quinn who is the new love interest for Claire and who she meets helping to solve a crime in the first novel.  And we can’t forget Madame, Claire’s ex-mother-in-law that gets involved with helping to solve the crimes…plus has a large closet with vintage clothing that Claire utilizes when she needs a cover and the appropriate clothing.

This is an enjoyable series with characters that are fun and quirky.  If you read the series, be sure to read in order to keep the personal line straight!

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Posted in California, mystery, Sue Grafton on January 9, 2010

U for Undertow is the 21st book in the alphabet series by Sue Grafton.

Kinsey Millhone is a PI in Santa Teresa CA, a small bedroom community.  The year is 1988 and Kinsey is hired by Michael Sutton who seems to think her remembers seeing two “pirates” burying a little girl that was kidnapped in the summer of 1967.  He was 6 years old at the time and doesn’t really seem to remember much for sure.  Yet he hires Kinsey for a day (that is all he could afford) which sets off a chain of events that no one could predict.  Is Michael really remembering the past or is it something that he just thinks he saw?  The story also brings together several families and how their lives intersected in the late 60’s and reflects who they are today, well at least 1988!

I started reading this series of books about 10 years ago and one of the things I really enjoy about the books is the time period.  The 1980’s is when I was in high school so any references to pop culture I understand.  I also like that she doesn’t have computers and the internet at her disposal and has to solve crimes the old fashioned way, with lots of hard work and getting out there and talking to people.

I definitely recommend this series but if you do decide to take it on, you need to start with A is for Alibi and work your way through the alphabet.  It just better that way, trust me!

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Posted in Colorado, romance on December 17, 2009

reasonsDelphi Brent is a self assured young woman who has the opportunity to travel to Colorado for the summer before starting a job in Maine.  However, her parents are not keen on this idea because of an accident nine years previously that left Delphi with a large scar on her leg and the death of a son of long time friends, Robert & Annie Laughlin.  What no one knows is who was driving the car and what really happened….or at least they are not saying.  What Delphi doesn’t expect is to fall in love with one of the Laughlin boys and for her world to turn upside down and will the secrets cause her to lose out on a chance of love and happily ever after.  

I read this book in about 3 days (at night) and could not put it down.  I really enjoyed the wit of Delphi and her reactions to Noreen, the fiancee of Bobby Laughlin, who thinks that Delphi is there to make good on a crush from 11 years ago when she was 15. I liked how she stood up for herself and didn’t let anyone get her down.  However, in the same respect, Delphi didn’t give others a chance to break down the walls around her heart.  That is until several people mentioned to her that Tam Laughlin looks at her like there is no one else in the world.  The power of suggestion!  Despite her reservations, she finds herself enjoying Tam’s company and getting closer to him until it finally ends in a kiss…but what a kiss!

Delphi also makes friends with Dave the vet, who has a secret of his own that surprisingly no one else figures out.

And then there is Bobby, the oldest brother who is engaged to Noreen and is it really for love or to join their ranches?  And is his heavy drinking masking anything else?

This was a very enjoyable read and I highly recommend it!

Posted in Cozy, mystery on September 22, 2009

I know I know….I am wayyyy behind in posting a review or something book related. Work doesn’t play nice with us and internet access anymore.

I have been reading a lot lately and will try to get to those soon but wanted to highlight an author that I have enjoyed reading lately. Victoria Laurie writes cozies and has two series out that I have read (am reading).

The first is the Psychic Eye series featuring Abby Cooper and her mini dachshund Eggy. Abby is a psychic and manages to find herself in many situations that she could have avoided if she had just listened to her spirit guides. Of course then we wouldn’t have this series of books to read if she did that!

I’m on the 4th book in the series, Killer Insight, and currently there are 7 in the series.

In the 3rd book, A Vision of Murder, she introduces M.J. Holliday which spun off another series called The Ghost Hunter mystery series and yes, M.J. is a ghost hunter.

On top of that, Victoria is a psychic herself, so what better way to write a book than about something you know.

If you are looking for a cozy series to start, check out either one of these series by Victoria Laurie and you won’t be disappointed!