Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday's Special Is...The Blue Cotton Gown!

THE BLUE COTTON GOWN by Patricia Harman

“A flower child who found her calling after coaching a friend through a home birth, nurse-midwife Harman works with her ob-gyn husband at a West Virginia clinic. In her sweetly perceptive memoir, she reveals how her exam room becomes a confessional. Coaxing women in thin blue gowns to share secrets—about abusive boyfriends, OxyContin habits, unplanned pregnancies—she reminds them that they’re not alone.” —People magazine

“Here is an intimate account of a woman, both her career as a midwife and her life as the wife of a doctor in West Virginia. Her patients’ lives are stories of hope and loss; her marriage is a story of love and faith accompanied by debt and tension. Well-written and heartfelt.” —Boston Globe

"As the mother of seven children and veteran of eight pregnancy losses, I knew when I ran my bath that I would be unable to resist Patricia Harman's memoir of midwifery. What I didn't realize was that it would cause me, a sensible person, to get into the bath with one sock still on and rise from it when the candle was gone and the water cold. Utterly true and lyrical as any novel, Harman's book should be a little classic." —Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and Cage of Stars

"A seductive read! Read it to understand the fragile thinness between the care-giver and the cared-for. Patsy Harman does not shy away from her narrative. She does not shy away from controversial topics. She grabs the reader by the literary throat." —Judy Schaefer, editor of The Poetry of Nursing

"A nurse midwife struggling to keep solvent the women's health clinic in Torrington, W.Va., that she ran with her surgeon husband shares poignant stories about her patients over the course of a year …Wearying of the financial pressures and tensions with Tom, Harman tells in this heartfelt memoir that she dreamed of leaving the practice, though a genuine love for helping women, and her great faith both in God and her spouse, sustained her." —Publisher's Weekly

Chapter 1


I have insomnia . . . and I drink a little. I might as well tell you. In the
middle of the night, I drink scotch when I can’t sleep. Actually, I
can’t sleep most nights; actually, every night. Even before I stopped
delivering babies, I wanted to write about the women. Now I have

It’s 2:00 a.m., and I pull my white terry bathrobe closer, thinking
about the patients whose stories I hear. There’s something about
the exam room that’s like a confessional. It’s not dim and secret the
way I imagine a confessional is in a Catholic church, the way I’ve
seen them in movies. I peer at the clock. It’s now 2:06.

The exam room where these stories are shared is brightly illuminated
with recessed lighting. The walls are painted off-white and
have a wallpaper border of soft leaves and berries. There are framed
photographs of babies and flowers and trees, pictures I took myself
and hung to make the space seem less clinical, and a bulletin board
with handouts on stress reduction, wellness, and calcium.

The room is not big. It’s the usual size. If I had to guess, I’d say
eight feet by ten feet. The countertop under the tall white cupboard
is hunter green, and there’s a small stainless-steel sink in the corner.
Other than a guest chair, my rolling stool, and a small trash can with
a lid, there’s just the exam table, angled away from the wall, with a
flowered pillow and rose vinyl upholstery. On it lies a folded white
sheet and a blue cotton gown with two strings for a tie. The exam
table dominates everything.

I don’t drink for fun. I don’t even like scotch. It’s for the sleep.
I can’t work if I can’t sleep. The scotch is my sleep medicine and I
want it to taste like medicine. The little jam jar with the black line
at three ounces sits in the bathroom cupboard. My husband fills it
for me, then locks the bottle in the closet. I ask him to do that.
When you have as many alcoholics in your family as I do, you don’t
take chances. On nights when I’m restless, I drink it down sip by sip,
making a bad face after each swallow. Then in an hour, I go back to

I stand now at the window listening to the song of the spring
frogs and thinking of the stories the women tell me, and then, in the
stillest part of the deep night, I sit down to write. I need to sleep
. . . but I need to tell the stories. The stories need to be told because
they are from the hearts of women; the tender, angry hearts; the
broken, beautiful hearts of women.
The Blue Cotton Gown by Patricia Harman
Copyright © 2008 by Patricia Harman
Reprinted by permission of Beacon Press, Boston
Answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of THE BLUE COTTON GOWN. Or stop by and let's hear your confesssions...
:-) Seriously, please drop in and say hi, and feel welcome to ask questions! Patricia has a great listening ear!! Let's open the floor for discussion related to this topic.
Patricia mentions a drink as a sleep aid. What kind of drink would she recommend to writers to help them write better?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday's Special is... The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones

The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones by Helen Hemphill

When Prometheus Jones wins a horse with a raffle ticket he got from Pernie Boyd and LaRue Dill, he knows things won’t go smoothly. No way are those two rednecks going to let a black man, even a freeman from the day of his birth, keep that horse. So as soon as things get ugly, he jumps on the horse, pulls his cousin Omer up behind him, and heads off. They hook up with a cattle drive out of Texas heading for Deadwood, South Dakota. Prometheus is a fine hand with a horse and not so bad with a gun, and both skills prove useful as the trip north throws every twist and turn imaginable at the young cowpokes. School Library Journal writes, “Hemphill’s convincing vernacular narration and well-researched, hard-bitten details of life in the South and on the western range give this adventure story surprising depth.”

Buy from Amazon

Excerpt from The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones

We ain’t paying you any money,” LaRue says. “Didn’t you hear me, slave boy?”

I ain’t their slave boy. I ain’t never been their slave boy. I was born on the day Mr. Lincoln made his Proclamation, and I’ve been free since my first breath. Mr. Lincoln done won that war, and Colonel Dill done lost half his land and most all his gold money. But that don’t matter to me. The Dill boys still owe me four bits.

"He speaking for you?" I say over to Pernie Boyd.

Pernie Boyd looks up at me, uncertain. "Figured Miss Stoney would break your neck. I ain't got no silver," he says, stuffing his hands deep in his britches to hide his lying. "All I got is my lucky rabbit's foot, and I won't part with that."

But Pernie Boyd stares are Omer's rawhide sure enough and starts flapping his pockets, airing out his jitters. Pernie Boyd pulls the rabbit's foot out of his pocket and holds it up for Omer to see. "It's a good rabbit's foot too. Cut off the left hind leg during a full moon. Old man sold it to me said it's full of hoodoo magic. I'm safe as a baby." LaRue’s worrying with Miss Stoney’s bridle and don’t look up. Pernie Boyd hides the rabbit’s foot in his hand, then sneaks it back in his pocket. “Ain’t nothing but good come looking for me.”

He glances over at LaRue, then at the whip, then at me, then at the whip again and bites back his lip. Pernie Boyd was born yellow-dog fearful.

“I know!” His words come out all at once. “I got a jim-dandy idea! I got a raffle ticket you can have. Come from old man Levi. He’s offering a fine horse worth thirty dollars. It’s a beaut—black stallion with two strong hindquarters. Ticket’s not even cold; I bought it this morning for fifty cents.” Pernie Boyd shows me the stub, but he don’t let go of it.

Omer steps up behind me with a wild, colored-boy look on his face, and Pernie throws the raffle ticket into the dirt. “Take it! We don’t want it. We ain’t got no money. You touch us, and our daddy will have you both swinging on a rope.” He looks like he might cry.

The hounds sniff all over the ticket, but I kick them out of the way and take it up and look on the back. “When’s the drawing?” I ask.


Howdy, folks! (How's that for convincing vernacular narration?) Please answer the following question for a chance to win a copy of The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones: If you won a horse from Helen Hemphill, do you think she'd let you keep it? Why or why not? Explain your answer.

And if that's too much pressure, just pop in for an old-fashioned campfire chat with Helen!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bringing Eyes to Books

From the desk of Ms. Sally Spitfire

My dearest Suzy,

I'm sorry it's been so long since I've written! I hope that all is well with you down there in the warm embrace of the sunny south. These past few weeks in NYC we have had rain, snow, driving winds and bitter cold sprinkled with the occasional day of teasing warmth and courageous sun. I know we have a few months of winter to go, but oh! how I do long for spring!

In the meantime, despite my whining about the weather, life in the big city is going quite well. Antonio says hello (he says that I talk about you so much he feels he already knows you) and I hope that you'll give my love to everyone back home.

Now on to your question from you last letter. It's an extremely good question and the one that I get asked most frequently about working in the marketing department: what exactly is the different between marketing and publicity?

It can get a little confusing because there is definitely some overlap and--in other industries or even in much smaller publishing houses--in some cases publicity and marketing are smushed together into one job or one department.

At larger houses like mine, though, the publicity and marketing departments are very separate entities with very separate responsibilities. Once I heard it described this way: although both departments departments are--in essence--responsible for drawing attention to a soon-to-be or just-published book, publicity generally does it without spending money.

But perhaps that doesn't make sense yet. Let me break it down for you a little bit further one department at a time.


The publicity department publicizes a book. It is their job to make sure that book-buyers--the general public--learns about a book. The majority of their energy is spent getting the book reviewed (in newspapers, magazines, websites, and blogs), getting the book or the author featured in national television or radio shows (NPR, The Today Show, Oprah, etc.) and setting up publicity events such as book signings or tours for the authors. Although of course it does costs money to set up a tour, none of these things (think interview on NPR or positive book review in the Wall Street Journal) can actually be purchased. Successful publicists can often be described as a combination of a talented car-salesman and a socialite... they're able to pitch anything (and convince you that it's PERFECT for YOU) and they have a well-thumbed little black book with contacts everywhere it matters. Talented publicists can name-drop with the best of them.


I feel like the longer I work in marketing, the more responsibilities I realized are delegated to us. But at heart, the marketing dept. is in charge of making sure that booksellers--bookstores--and bookbuyers--the general public--learn about a book. We do this by advertising (in newspapers, magazines and online), by making promotional materials (think bookmarks, t-shirts, advanced readers' editions and galleys, etc.), by offering co-op to bookstores, and by setting up special programs or opportunities such as planning a sweepstakes or getting the author to do a guest blog for a popular website. You'll notice that most of these things (advertising, promotional materials) cost money. Successful marketing people are a perfect mix between left-brain and right-brain: they are able to understand money and budgets and bang-per-buck and can also be creative, reinvent the wheel (i.e. the marketing plan) for every book and continually put themselves in other people's heads. Talented marketing people know that every book has an audience and come up with creative ways of introducing THAT audience to THAT book in such a way that they will feel compelled to rush out and buy it immediately.

Whew! And there you have it! The marketing dept. spends money (usually) and publicity does not (usually) and both bring eyes to the books.

What do you think? Does it make more sense now? If so, I'm going to enlist YOUR help, Suzie-darling, at the next family reunion; you'll be in charge of answering that question every other time it gets asked...

Much, much love,

(Ms.) Sally S.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday's Special Is...Priscella and the Hollyhocks!

Priscella and the Hollyhocks by Anne Broyles

Priscilla is only four years old when her mother is sold to another master. All Priscilla has to remember her mother by are the hollyhocks she planted by the cow pond. At age ten, Priscilla is sold to a Cherokee family and continues her life as a slave. She keeps hope for a better life alive by planting hollyhocks wherever she goes. At last, her forced march along the Trail of Tears brings a chance encounter that leads to her freedom.

Based on a true story. For elementary schoool age children.
What others are saying:
"Priscilla and the Hollyhocks tells a story too often ignored or overlooked - a story of how the west was not won but captured. Reading about Priscilla's remarkable life makes all our hearts a bit warmer while filling our heads with a much-needed piece of American history."

Nikki Giovanni, poet
"When Priscilla's mother is sold to a new owner and the two are separated, the young slave girl finds solace in her mother's hollyhock patch. As she grows older, the kind words of a white businessman, Basil Silkwood, instill in Priscilla a desire to attend school, but she is soon sold to a Cherokee family, and her life of servitude continues. As her Native American owners embark on the grueling 20 mile journey west, known as the 1838 "Trail of Tears," she again meets the compassionate Silkwood, who purchases her freedom. Alter's appealing acrylic illustrations, rendered in single- and double- page spreads and framed close-ups, elevate the emotion of the story and echo the flattened perspective and thick outlines of folk art.

Based on real events, Broyles' poetic and colloquial narrative, voiced by a grown Priscilla, ends with the girl sowing the seeds of her mother's hollyhocks near her new home with the Silkwoods and an author's note detailing the historical basis of the story."

Buy from Amazon


When I was young and still wore slavery’s yoke,
I was saved by hollyhocks, and a white man’s kindness.

Freedom filled my dreams, but I was born a slave’s child.

“She’ll fetch a pretty penny,” Master said as he loaded Ma up in a wagon like a steer led to slaughter. Ma turned her anguished face to me, raised one hand in farewell.

I lacked strength to wave back, tho’ I ’spect my eyes mirrored her sorrow.

I pined after Ma.

Old Sylvia recollected me t’was Ma planted hollyhocks along the white picket fence by the cow pond.

“Your ma made hollyhock dolls like this, Priscilla,” Old Sylvia said. She took the beauteous pink flower in her gnarled brown hands, pushed and pulled it into shape, set it sail on the cow pond. I watched my flower dolly float and felt my mother’s smile.

Six years I played like any child. The cow pond was my home, the cows my family. I could turn a hollyhock blossom into a pretty lady in no time flat. Then I was put to the work for which Master said I had been born.

“Work hard and keep still,” Old Sylvia told me. She put a dust rag in my hands.

My first days in the Big House, I felt the weight of Master’s rules. I played invisible, silent as the walls, and hoped no one would pay me no mind. I learnt not to jump when Master hollered, but my insides was aquiverin’. Late at night, as I lay on a quilt in the attic, alone, I ’membered the sound of other slaves’ screams as Master beat them.

My poundin’ heart echoed the blows Master struck against black bodies.

Sundays I fled to the hollyhocks. I watched my dollies float, dance, cross the pond.

My smile escaped at the joy of it.

One mornin’ when I served First Master his porridge, his hand stung my cheek.

“Tarnation, you’re slow, gal!” He jumped up, knocked over the chair, stormed out with a slammed door curse. I clutched the unspilled bowl in my warm, tremblin’ hands, took it back to the kitchen.

“Might as well eat,” Cook said, and added a dollop of sugar to the porridge.

I grinned, picked up a spoon.


Welcome, everyone! Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of PRISCELLA AND THE HOLLYHOCKS, or drop by and chat with Anne!
...the cows my family. If Anne could name the cows in her family, what would they be called? Give at least two names.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday's Special Is...Eternal!

ETERNAL by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Buy ETERNAL from Amazon

At last Miranda is the life of the party: all she had to do was die. Elevated and adopted by none other than the reigning King of the Mantle of Dracul, Miranda goes from high-school theatre wannabe to glamorous royal fiend overnight. Her reckless and adoring guardian angel, meanwhile—fighting in guise as the princess’s personal assistant—has his work cut out for him with the Master’s Death Day gala fast approaching. Can Zachary save his girl’s soul and redeem himself before all hell arrives, quite literally, on their doorstep? Here, with diabolical wit, Cynthia Leitich Smith revisits the deliciously dark parallel world of her novel TANTALIZE, this time with a breathtaking new cast.

Excerpt from ETERNAL:

/Zachary’s point of view /

I’m Miranda’s guardian angel (GA for short). A newbie created after the first atomic blast in 1945. Miranda is my second assignment and my reason for being. Not that she has clue one. She can’t even see me. Nobody can unless I choose to show myself. That’s a no- no.

We GAs have our limits. Sure, we help out when we can, but not in any way that’s clearly detectable . . . or at least traceable (I’m known to push the limits now and then).

Night after night, I watch her sleep. She’s restless. Always restless. I’m forever rearranging the sheets so her legs don’t get tangled. Otherwise, she’ll wake up.

She doesn’t get enough rest as it is. She worries about little mistakes. Or what she frets are mistakes. What other people think of her. What will happen next. All humans do. I wish they could glimpse infinity. It would make glitches like a C in algebra or a nitpicking parent or being ignored by The Guy feel a whole lot less fatal.

I would love to talk to Miranda. To tell her that.


/Miranda’s point of view /

I debate telling Lucy that my dad is in Alaska (or at least floating on a boat around it) with some mysterious woman who’s forging his postcards, that my mom is in the midst of one of her trademark needy phases because of it, and that she may sign off on sending me to a shrink after I tell her about today’s audition.

“My beanbag is possessed,” I reply instead.

“Interesting.” At HORROR, Lucy holds up The Grudge. “What do you think?”

We’ve seen it before. That said, I love movies. Lucy and I have been watching films and munching popcorn — with real butter — on her L-shaped sectional almost every weekend for as long as I can remember, and last summer, my job was working concession at the mall multiplex. “I think —”

“Can I help you ladies fi nd something spooky?” It’s Lucy’s crush, “Kurt,” a fact we deduced early on due to the helpful plastic name tag on his red polo- style shirt.

He’s tall, taller than Lucy — which, for her, is key — a sandy blond, and looks a couple of years older than us. Despite the safety pin stuck through his right nostril, he’s remarkably cute for a DVD rental guy.

Answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of ETERNAL, or pop in and chat with Cynthia! Ask questions, talk books...

Monster Day Death Gala may be one name for your high school prom. Give us another name.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday's Special Is...Orange Mint and Honey!

ORANGE MINT and HONEY by Carleen Brice

Carleen's debut novel Orange Mint and Honey (2008, Random House) — an Essence “Recommended Read” and a Target “Bookmarked Breakout Book” — was optioned for a movie by Lifetime Television. For this novel, she received the Breakout Author of the Year Award from the African American Literary Awards Show and the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

Shay Dixon, evicted and about to flunk out of grad school, has no choice but to go back to Denver. There, she’s shocked to find her mother, Nona, is now sober, raising a pre-schooler, and growing an amazing garden. What else will take root and blossom in Nona’s garden? Orange Mint and Honey is a haunting, exquisitely written story about mothers and daughters—and the power of healing and forgiveness. (Where Carleen blogs about writing & gardening & stuff) (Where Carleen promotes black authors to a diverse readership)

Excerpt from ORANGE MINT and HONEY

I should have known things were getting bad when Nina Simone showed up. Don't get me wrong. I love Nina. I've been listening to her since History of Jazz sophomore year. The professor taught us to worship the great men of jazz, but it was the women who drew me in: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, Bessie Smith, Mildred Bailey. They were queens, priestesses, goddesses—encouraging me, pointing me away from danger, schooling me in the ways of life. Especially Nina Simone.

I listened to Nina Simone a thousand times, and I always got something from her music. But the night she came to me for the first time she must have known I needed more than a song could offer. I knew a famous singer, and a dead one at that, shouldn't have been in my bedroom, but somehow I wasn't surprised to see her because I had been wishing she were there. Wishing she would tell me what to do.

Usually when I was down I could keep going. But this time I bumped up against something that I couldn't get over, a wall as hard and cold and impossible to see through as frosted glass. I had lost my job writing grant proposals for an indigent-care clinic, stopped going to class, and received an eviction notice from my landlord. But still all I could do was listen to music, hanging on to the life preserver of Nina Simone's eerie, regal voice.

That night, I was listening to the fast version of “House of the Rising Sun.” It’s a live recording, seven minutes long. Nina gets so into it, you can’t make out what she’s singing. Behind her, the band chants “rising sun,” “rising sun” over and over, and the audience claps to the fast beat. The piano, the clapping hands, and tambourine sound like church and juke joints, like sweat and heat, free and alive. I started dancing. I hadn’t had the energy to get out of my pajamas for a week, but “House of the Rising Sun” had me shaking my head back and forth, twirling in circles, and pumping my arms and legs up and down like I was performing a tribal ritual, like I was one of Alvin Ailey’s dancers. I danced through the song three times until all thoughts of jobs and grad school and unpaid bills were erased from my mind and I could sleep.

At 3:33 a.m. I opened my eyes and Nina Simone was there, as if I had conjured her, standing in front of my bedroom window, blue moonlight spotlighting her features — thick lips, proud nose, slanted eyes rimmed in kohl like Cleopatra’s. I had been asking myself for days WWNSD (What would Nina Simone do?) and now she had come to tell me. I didn’t know if she was a ghost or a hallucination, and I didn’t care. Eyes wide, heart thumping like the speakers in the car of a teenaged boy, I sat up and waited for Nina Simone to say something wise, to tell me how to fix the mess I’d made of my life, to comfort me, and convince me that I had inside me everything I needed to move forward.

“You’ve really screwed up now,” she said.
Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of ORANGE MINT and HONEY. And be sure to drop by and wave hello!!
If Carleen could conjure up a famous actor to stand beside her bedroom window, who would it be?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday's Special Is...Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts!


He gives a woman everything she could want, answers her deepest unspoken needs, her hidden thoughts, her darkest desires. But Varick isn't just too good to be true, he is hell-sent.

Roxanne, Del, and Alice were girls together at Our Lady of the Hills School, where they met and came to adore their teacher, Father Romero, a Cuban refugee. For one of the girls, Father Romero was far more than a crush, and as a result of her lies he is driven away from his faith and his home and into an empty spiritual darkness that makes him easy prey for true evil.

Years later, Romero takes his merciless revenge—revenge that is terrifying, sexually-charged and surreal as a fever dream. No one in the women's lives is safe. Not even an unborn child.

Order from Amazon

She was just plain Alice, and they never let her forget.

Roxanne and Delilah, who was called Del, knelt close to Alice by the light of a candle, the skirts of their stiff blue school uniforms crumpling against her. Del rested a hand on Alice's shoulder as though she might try to get up from the leaf-strewn ground and run away. But they all knew she wouldn't. Roxanne used a twig to stir some pungent concoction in a shell-thin African bowl she had brought from home. The odor suffused the copse like the fug from an ancient outhouse. To Alice, it smelled suspiciously like a baby's dirty diaper. There was something else, though. Something caustic and chemical-smelling that made her eyes water.

"I don't have to eat it, do I?" Alice said.

"Oh God," Del said. She hadn't wanted to go along with this whole thing in the first place. She was nervous enough about being in the park after dark. And there was something deeply wrong with what they were doing, she knew. Witchcraft on television was fine, but this was something else.

"Of course not," Roxanne said, her voice patient. The bowl was heavy in her hands, though it hardly contained anything at all. If she were a few years older than thirteen, she would know it was heavy with her own desire—a desire that she could, at that moment, identify only as dimly sexual.

"Get her coat off," she told Del.

"Come on," Del said. "Don't be a baby, Alice."

She reached for the buttons on the front of Alice's pea coat, which was exactly like the ones she and Roxanne were wearing, though Roxanne's had a black velvet scarf tucked beneath the collar. Alice didn't help with the coat, but she didn't resist, either. Del flung the coat and the blue cardigan sweater with its Our Lady of the Hills crest onto the dormant grass.

Alice shivered in her blouse, hoping that she would be able to leave on at least her skirt and socks.

Roxanne nodded. Del's cold-numbed fingers tugged at the buttons of Alice's blouse.

"For pity's sake," Roxanne said. "Alice, you need to unbutton your blouse. You don't have to undo it all the way. Then you need to lie down."

Alice did as she was told. Roxanne put down the bowl and tucked the discarded coat beneath Alice's head. She brushed her fingertips over Alice's brow and smiled. Sweet, tender Alice. Though perhaps not so sweet—she whined sometimes. But at least she was Pure Alice, who had never been kissed—a virgin, as they all were.

"Now. Everyone be quiet," she said, picking up the bowl. Her hands shook a bit with the excitement of it all. She closed her eyes.

The words she spoke—seemingly to the sky, or the air in front of her—were unintelligible to the others. Her tone was one of supplication: a petition or a prayer, not so different from the prayers the priests said at mass. She tried for the same singsong in her voice, the same careful cadence. She's added a few thoughts and words of her own to the spell she took from the satanic witchcraft book she stole from the public library, thinking that they would make it more effective.

The herbs in the mash were ones she remembered being used in a joyful Santeria rite that her mother had taken her to, when her mother was on one of her "spiritual quests." It was this blending of dark magic and the divine that she believed would give them what they wanted.

Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS. Or pop in and chat! Laura isn't as scary as her books...
What would Laura's kids say about her cooking?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Uncover Me

Ms. Spitfire is in a secret bunker and will return next Monday.

This week, I'd like to share some book marketing tips I've learned since the launch of the Book Roast blog.

Marketing books is hard work because there are no sexy models posing with books on television or in magazines.

(Note: There are many more lovelies out there, including our own Antonio. We'll talk more about that in a bit. But honestly, I do have your attention, no?)

Tips for marketing books:

1) Take Risks

A couple of authors took a chance early on with this whole roasting idea. (nod to Sara Palin for that sentence construction) Patricia Wood and John Elder Robison supported this concept from the beginning. I think their willingness to try new things is one ingredient for their well-deserved success. Thank you to both!

2) Spread Good Will

Author Erica Orloff has published multiple books in multiple genres, but maintains a daily blog in which she shares writing advice and invites readers to share their thoughts. Down-to-earth and easily approachable, a big Thank you!

Author Stephanie Bodeen is an award-winning author who has taken time out of her busy schedule to post about Book Roast on writing boards and blogs. Friendly and charismatic, she is always upbeat and positive. Thank you!

3) Reach and Exposure

Writer Travis Erwin has a large and popular blog following. His weekly series, "My Town Monday," has literally put him on the map all over the world. This kind of electronic connectivity is valuable in today's world. Thank you!

Author Laurel Snyder is everywhere. She's a marketing dynamo, with a vibrant presence in the blogosphere, as well as Twitter, Facebook, and even Wikipedia! This is smart. Period. Thank you!

4) Sense of Humor

Author Dennis Cass has a sense of humor and knows how to use it. Remember that YouTube video? It was more than fifteen minutes of fame. Thousands of people watched it. He is also a cross-over author because he spreads good will with his site "Dennis Cass Wants You to be More Awesome." Thank you!

5) Antonio
Having Antonio on the cover of your book, or giving your book to his lunch dates is a great way to increase your visibility. For a small fee, we can rent him out. If you can't afford our rates, try the squirrel. His rates are much lower.
((A very special thank you to each and every author on our side bar! Your support is the reason we do this. It's been a pleasure learning from so many different kinds of books, styles, and genres!))

Sometimes it's helpful to look at examples of what not to do.

Examples of Bad Marketing:

**McDonald's Arch Deluxe Burger**

The Arch Deluxe was a hamburger created and marketed by McDonald's with the intent of capturing the adult fast food consumer market, presented as a more sophisticated burger for an adult palate. It failed to catch on and is seen as one of the most expensive flops of all time.

Why it didn't catch on: Adults weren't going to pay more for a slightly better burger.

Plus a scary chef dude in an elevator (this commercial) didn't help.

**New Coca Cola**

On April 23, 1985, Coca-Cola, amid much publicity, attempted to change the formula of the drink with "New Coke." Follow-up taste tests revealed that most consumers preferred the taste of New Coke to both Coke and Pepsi. Coca-Cola management was unprepared, however, for the nostalgic sentiments the drink aroused in the American public. The new Coca-Cola formula caused a public backlash. Protests caused the company to return to the old formula under the name Coca-Cola Classic on July 10, 1985.

Lesson Learned: People can base buying decisions on emotion. Plus, make sure you get good focus groups.


Can you think of other examples of good marketing and bad marketing? Does any of this pertain to marketing books?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday's Special...StarQuest!

STARQUEST by Hywela Lyn

When Jestine Darnell is rescued from her sabotaged starship by the crew of the Destiny her only objective is to complete her mission and keep her promise to save a world from slavery. Love is the last thing on her mind. However, she has not counted on losing her heart to Kerry Marchant the ship’s second in command, who makes his distrust of her painfully obvious, despite the chemistry between them. The completion of her mission has consequences that neither of them could have foreseen.

Enter Dahll Tarron, who becomes involved in a long and dangerous quest to find the Destiny. Fates become intertwined, perils shared, culminating in the realization that sometimes love may be so close that there is a danger it will not be recognized until it is too late…

To buy StarQuest from The Wild Rose Press, CLICK HERE

Click to visit, Lyn's website or her blog.

Excerpt from STARQUEST

Kerry turned and looked at her. "Something on scan that should not be there?" he asked, the brusque tone of his voice breaking into her musings.

"No, it's beautiful out there—and so vast," she replied. How could he fail to be moved by the stars she loved so much? "It makes me think of something my mother told me when I was a child back on Earth."

He raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"You wouldn't be interested. It's just a story." She rose from her seat.

"Try me."

"Well..." Noting the cold skepticism in his eyes, Jess wished fervently she had not mentioned it, but it was too late now. Reluctantly she seated herself again.

"I used to spend hours watching the stars, dreaming of one day exploring them," she told him softly. "My mother and I would often watch the night sky together. I loved to see falling stars, and she told me they were the souls of young girls who had died for love. For a long time I believed it."

Kerry regarded her witheringly. "Presumably you do not need me to give you a lecture on meteors and astrophysics?"

"I did say I was just a child. I knew you'd think it ridiculous." She tossed back her hair and looked at him steadily. "But even when I was old enough to know falling stars were merely specks of cosmic dust igniting in the Earth's atmosphere, I still loved watching for them and imagining—"

She broke off with a slight shrug, and gestured toward the scanner. "I'm sure it sounds absurd to you, but I would never be afraid to die if I thought I might become part of all that, even if just for a moment."

"Are you not a little old for such fanciful ideas?"

Jess ignored the scorn in his voice. "Perhaps, but I can't help thinking how fragile life is. I've already cheated death once. My escape module wasn't equipped with interstellar drive. I couldn't have made it to another planetary system before the life support units gave out. If the Destiny hadn't picked me up."

She studied him pensively for a moment. He behaved like part of the ship itself...cold, calculating and unfeeling. Why had he suddenly decided to strike up a conversation with her? What thoughts were going through his head to make him stare at her so fixedly? "Kerry, don't you believe in anything?"

"Oh, yes," he replied, giving her a very direct look. "Myself and this ship, and the technology that enabled us to design and build her."

"And there's no room in your life for the concept of the Universal think this whole universe was created by accident?"

"I know it goes against all the rulings of the Union, with their insistence on blind obedience to the 'Universal Spirit,' but I trust only in the things I know and can control. I do not waste my time on fantasy or myths."

"It must be very gratifying to be so self-sufficient you need no one and nothing but yourself," Jess said, without trying to suppress the note of scornful resignation in her voice.

"It avoids disappointment."

She shook her head disparagingly and rose to leave the flight deck, taking one last look at the observation panel. To her consternation, Kerry caught hold of her by the shoulder and pushed her firmly back into her seat, standing over her with an attitude of grim resolve.

"Not so fast, you have some explaining to do."


Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of STARQUEST. Or, pop in and chat with Lyn!!
What’s the first thing Jess explains to Kerry?

Hywela Lyn (usually known by her second name ‘Lyn’, which is easier to pronounce, is intensely proud of being Welsh, although she currently lives in England with her husband Dave and rescued Jack Russell, Bouncer. She has made up stories in her head for as long as she can remember, inspired by the beautiful Welsh scenery and its legends, and acting out her characters' roles in her mind. She is passionately fond of all animals and the outdoors. She has two horses, Harry and T’pau and usually manages to have a horse somewhere in her stories.

‘Starquest’ is her first novel, a romantic SF/Fantasy. It is available in print or as an Ebook from The Wild Rose Press, and the sequel ‘Children Of The Mist’ is due to be released on 19th June this year. She is also one of nine authors collaborating The Wild Rose Press’s ‘Song Of The Muses’ series about the nine Greek Muses. Her Muse is ‘Terpsichore’ and Lyn sent her to 5th Century Wales. The book is also a tribute to her old endurance mare, Sally, ‘Dancing With Fate’ is available now from The Wild Rose Press.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday's Special...Invisible!

INVISIBLE by Kimber Chin

Maeve Delaney knows how to make people disappear. The rules are simple. Cut all ties to the past, don’t talk about yourself and never ever let a man get close. That includes any would-be partners with potty mouths, broad shoulders, and gentle hands.

To buy Invisible, CLICK HERE

Click to visit, Kimber's website.

Excerpt from INVISIBLE

Maeve woke to her fingertip stinging like the bejesus and the fizzling sound of hydrogen peroxide. She tried to yank her hand away. No chance. Hagen had a good grip around her wrist as he gently dabbed at the cut with a pure white cotton ball.

He looked almost concerned, sitting on the edge of the bed next to her. Couldn’t be, Maeve blinked a couple of times, he hated her, didn’t he?

The confusion must have shown. “Do you know who I am?” Hagen studied her.

“The devil,” she muttered, uncomfortable with the way he was looking at her.

“Close enough.” That made him grin as he wrapped her finger in a bandage a couple shades darker than her skin. “You’ll live.”

“Until you manage to kill me.” Maeve knew that she should be appreciative. She couldn’t dig up the humility.

“Wouldn’t take much. One tiny scrape,” he held up her finger for her inspection, “and you faint.”

“I did not faint,” she insisted despite all the evidence to the contrary. If she hadn’t fainted, then how did she get from the hall to the bed? How had she? Had he carried her? For that to have happened, okay, she might have fainted…

“Mmm.” He wasn’t bothering to answer, placing the garbage in the bin.

“If I did faint.” At his triumphant glance, she hastily added “which I didn’t. It wouldn’t be because of the cut. It’d be because I haven’t eaten anything today.”

Hagen checked his watch, the sleek Rado, black against the golden of his arm. Wrinkles appeared between his blond eyebrows. “D--- it woman, it’s seven o’clock. Why haven’t you eaten?”

“I was looking for your clue.” Maeve put the blame on him.

He said something under his breath. She couldn’t quite make it out, but based on his past language, it was nine chances out of ten, a curse. “You’re a grown woman who didn’t eat and now have the d--- nerve to try to make this all my fault?”

Maeve shrugged, suppressing a grin. Everything was back to normal. The soft Hagen was gone. This angry Hagen she could deal with. “If the shoe fits…”

His lips thinned into an angry line. “The d--- shoe does not.” Hagen stomped away.


Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of INVISIBLE. Or, pop in and chat with Kimber!!
What other articles of clothing do not fit Hagen?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday's Special is...Valley of the Lost!

VALLEY OF THE LOST by Vicki Delany

In the bucolic mountain town of Trafalgar, B.C. a young woman is found dead of a heroin overdose, her baby at her side. Marks of restraint indicate that it might not have been an accident. Before the police can discover who killed her, and why, they first have to find out who she was.

As the case becomes increasingly personal for them both, Probationary Constable Molly Smith and Sergeant John Winters are plunged into the strange netherworld of a young woman who didn’t exist and a town that was happy to let her remain that way.

Valley of the Lost is the second in a traditional mystery series featuring Constable Smith, Sergeant Winters, and the town in the shadow of the glacier, Trafalgar, British Columbia.

To buy Valley of the Lost, CLICK HERE

Click to visit, Vicki's website, or her blog - Type M for Murder.


The setting sun had slipped behind the mountains, and in the bottom of the valley, long ago carved out of ancient rock by the swift-moving river, the summer’s night was hot and close. The scent of cedar and pine, decaying undergrowth, rich earth filled the air, and further up the street a pack of young people, sounding as if they’d already hit the bars, laughed at nothing at all.

Lucy Smith, known to everyone as Lucky, stood at the back door of the Trafalgar Women’s Support Center to enjoy a rare moment of peace before walking to her car. It had been a long, hectic day, but a good one, and she was pleased with herself. Today she’d accomplished something. For once, the women seemed to be paying attention to what she’d been trying to teach them.

Lucky drove an ancient Pontiac Firefly. It was parked at the back, in a small gravel clearing chopped out of wild grass and weeds up against the bottom of the mountain. As she unlocked the door car, a soft cry came from the bushes. A cat? Lucky climbed into her car, paying it no further attention. The heat of the day still clung to the worn seats, and as she put the key into the ignition, she rolled down the window to try to catch a bit of a breeze. She was about to turn the key, to start up the engine, when she heard it again.

Definitely not a cat.

How odd. It sounded like a baby.

Lucky reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a flashlight. She flicked the light on as she stepped out of the car, and pointed it into the dense brush beyond the parking area. The thin beam illuminated dead leaves, broken branches, grey and white rocks. A single black sock. A blue can of Kokanee beer shone in the light.

A small yellow package, lying on the ground about ten yards inside the woods.

Lucky tried to focus; the bundle shifted, and cried out.

She pushed her way through the undergrowth, heedless of branches reaching for her face and scratching her bare arms. She dropped to her knees, pushing a sharp stone into her flesh. She shifted to get off the rock, and shone her light into the folds of the yellow blanket. A scrunched up white face blinked back at her, trying to shut out the sudden brightness. Tiny fists waved in the air.

“Oh, my heavens. You poor thing.” Lucky stuffed the flashlight into the elastic waistband of her snort, baggy pants and reached for the baby. “What are you doing out here all by yourself?” She peeled back the blanket. The baby was small, no more than a few months old. He, Lucky guessed it was a he as it was dressed in a blue sleeper, opened his mouth and yelled. He was clean and at first glace appeared to be healthy. His clear eyes were dark blue, his cheeks pink and chubby, his head bald, and his cry lusty.

“We’d better get you inside. They call me Lucky, but you’re the lucky one. Good thing I found you, and not a bear or a cougar. Where’s your mom?”

Lucky gathered the baby into her arms, and stood up. The flashlight dropped to the ground and rolled over, throwing its light deeper into the woods, touching the edges of a dark shape underneath a large red cedar. With a pounding heart, Lucky scooped the flashlight up. She clutched the baby, now screaming with gusto, to her chest and took a few hesitant steps forward.

A woman lay on her back. Her eyes were open wide, but she wasn’t looking at the branches swaying overhead or the stars barely visible trough the thick canopy of branches, leaves and needles. Shifting the baby in her right arm, Lucky crouched down and touched the base of the woman’s neck. Her skin was cold, and nothing moved under Lucky’s shaking fingers.


Constable Molly Smith’s boot slipped in a puddle of vomit. Instinctively her head jerked back to help her keep her balance and the man’s fist connected with her mouth. Her head spun, and she tasted hot sweet blood, but she managed to keep her footing. She ducked in case a second blow was coming. Dave Evans grabbed the man from behind and wrenched his arms back. “That’s enough of that.”

The man was big, about six foot three with the weight to match, and arms bulging with muscle and tattoos. His hair was long, thin, gray, and greasy. The moment Evans touched him, all the aggression fled. “Hey, I’m sorry, buddy. I didn’t mean to hit the lady. It was an accident, right? Can’t we forget all about it?”

“I don’t think so,” Evans said, snapping handcuffs on meaty wrists. “You okay, Constable Smith?”

She touched her lip. Her fingers came away streaked with blood. “No harm done,” she said, inwardly seething. Nothing Evans would like more than to think he’d saved her from the big, bad guy.


Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of VALLEY OF THE LOST. Or, pop in and chat with Vicki!!
If Evans likes to think he’s saved her from the big, bad guy, what does Constable Molly Smith like to think about Evans?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cover Me

From the desk of Ms. Sally Spitfire

Darling Suzie-Cutie,

Since I began working in publishing, Suzie m'dear, I've learned many surprising things. I hope, over the course of these letters, to share many of them with you. But of everything I've learned, I think I have been most surprised by the amount of work (meetings and emails and mock-ups) that goes into designing the cover of a book.

Now don't get me wrong--there are certainly some lucky books out there that are handed over to the care of a designer who puts together a perfectly appropriate and attractive cover which promptly gets approved by the editor, publisher and sales dept. with a few minor changes to font size or background color and---hurrah!--off to the printing press it goes.

More often than not, the cover design for a book ends up being a long and tremendously taxing process. Remember the phrase "don't judge a book by it's cover"? Well, apparently no one in publishing has ever heard this phrase; you wouldn't believe how many arguments take place about which picture, font and color on the cover of a book will best represent the book's subject and attract the correct audience.

Perhaps I'm being too vague. Imagine you're designing the cover for a fiction novel about a girl who meets her first boyfriend who turns out to be the love of her life. Picture in your head what the cover looks like. (Got something in mind?) Now, imagine that I tell you this book is actually a women's erotica novel? (Has the cover changed?) What if I tell you that this is a non-fiction memoir about a women who survived a domestically abusive first marriage? (Cover changed again, correct?) What about a scathingly, sarcastic yet humorous graphic novel for young men? What about a perfect book club book for city women? Southern women? African Americans?

I'm sure you're beginning to get the idea.

And as if it isn't confusing enough to charter the rolling seas of fonts, photos, clip-art, colors, and placement of author's name and subtitles... the cover often has to be approved not once, not twice, but as many as 8 times. In a best-case scenario, the art designer designs a perfect cover, the editor loves it and runs it by the agent and author, both of whom love it as well, and the book (ahem, cover) is in business.

In worst case scenarios (and often when a potentially best-selling book is involved), not only the editor, agent, and author but also the publisher, the sales team and the marketing staff get involved. There are weekly "cover" meetings in which the art dept, editorial staff and publishers meet solely to discuss, discard and discover disastrous and delightful cover designs. There are private phone conversations. There are frantic emails. Of course, more often than not when so many people get involved, it's impossible to make everyone happy. The cover that the publisher and sales dept. love is hated by the agent and the cover that the agent loves is detested by the editor.

It's time to call in the big guns.

That's right. Borders, Barnes & Noble, Wal-mart... whichever major account (book chain) the sales dept. is hoping will place a large order of the book is given a copy of the book jacket. Because here's the thing: if Borders loves a jacket, they may place an order for 10,000 and if they hate it, well... it's back to the drawing board so as not to lose that order.

Between the agent/author team, the publishing house (sales, publisher and editor), and the major booksellers (Borders, B&N, Amazon, etc.), sometimes it amazes me that any cover gets chosen at all! But it's all worth it when a cover comes out so spectacularly that you simply have to pull it off the shelf.

Can you think of any books that you picked up--or even bought--simply because you craved the cover? Please, please do share! I'll tell you the first book I ever bought just for the cover: Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville. Ah. I loved that book.

Oh my! Look at the time! I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date! (More on that next letter, Suzie!)

Your luvin' cuzin,

(Ms.) Sally S.

Question: How much does a book cover affect your book purchase? Do you have any favorite book covers?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thursday's special is...WOOF!

WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty by Diana Black, Mary Cunningham, Melinda Richarz Bailey

No map to guide you through the "joys" of middle age? Join three witty, savvy, resourceful women as we chart our own course. Yep! You’re invited! As you romp through issues of expanding waistlines, deepening wrinkles, empty nests and muddled memories, we promise you’ll find good things to bark about!

Mary says...

My WOOFer name is 'Milkbone'. You may, (or may not) be wondering...Hey! What's with the names?

The acronym for “Women Only Over Fifty” is WOOF. We use canine terms and analogies in stories and chapter titles, such as, Are We Barking Up the Wrong Tree? Purebred Potpourri and Over Fifty Tailwaggers.

In the process, the natural evolution was to give ourselves dog names. Diana’s is d.d. dawg (lower case, puh-leeeze!) and Melinda is known as Mad Dog. No clue why ‘cause she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. And my name, Milkbone, comes from one of my favorite expressions. It’s a dog-eat-dog world and I’m wearing milkbone underwear.

From Faux Paws, Over Fifty Tailwaggers, to How to Dress the Mature Mutt, WOOF is all about the joys of aging! How 50 is the new 30! Whatever!

Some Faux Paws to enjoy (whether you’re over fifty or not!)

WOOFers have discovered that as we age we often find ourselves in very awkward and socially unacceptable situations. We've gathered a few No-No’s.

  • A FAUX PAW is christening your friend’s new beige sofa with an entire glass of RED wine.
  • A FAUX PAW is leaving a public ladies room with the paper seat protector stuck to your shoe.
  • A FAUX PAW is dancing the Twist at your granddaughter’s 10th birthday party.
  • A FAUX PAW is asking a friend who normally wears jeans and a sweatshirt, “Hey, what’s with the dress? Did you just come from a funeral?” and hear her answer, “Yes.”
Or, maybe limericks are more your style.

Now that I’m in middle age
I must say I’ve noticed some change.
My waist has expanded.
My eyebrows disbanded.
And I have a much lower “backstage.”

Looking for diet tips? Woof’s got ‘em!

The Saturn Diet

Enough already with "Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus!” Give me a break.
I wanna be from Saturn! What? You haven't heard the latest?

Saturn is denser than Earth. Therefore, a 150-pound woman would only weigh 135! Whoo-hoo! Bring back my 1980s closet. I dream of zipping up those size 8 Liz Claiborne jeans. Slipping on my L. L. Bean cargo shorts and tank top. Oh, and my two-piece bathing suit! How great would it be to slowly remove my beach robe and not have to sprint Olympic-style into the pool. Instead, I could proudly stroll, sit on the edge, and gracefully slink into the water without fear of being mistaken for a beached whale.

Okay…where do you buy tickets for the space shuttle?

Hair Insanity, Dispelling the Chocolate Myth, plus our own WOOFers Restaurant menu and Theme Park, are just a few chapters you’ll enjoy in WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty. Check out our blog, too!

Order from Amazon or Echelon Press

Mary Cunningham is also the author of the Cynthia’s Attic Young Reader Mystery Series.

More about Mary

Born and raised in Southern Indiana, I now live in the mountains of West Georgia with my husband. We're the parents of three creative (grown) children, and a delightfully witty sixteen-year-old granddaughter. I began writing poetry (not good!) at an early age, and then moved on to memoirs. Besides my fantasy series, Cynthia’s Attic, and WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty, in my spare time I’m working on an adult mystery and a young adult time-travel novel.

When not chained to my computer, I enjoy playing golf, swimming, taking walks and pi-routin'. Not sure that's spelled right, but it's Cajun for wandering about, taking in the sights without a specific itinerary.


Award yourself a WOOF-y nickname and explain the thinking behind your choice. (Ignore the fact that you may not necessarily be a woman and/or over 50).

Mary's favourite will win a copy of WOOF: Women Only Over 50. (If you are not a woman over 50, then it makes a great gift - or it might help you understand your Mom/Grandma/wife better!)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wednesday's special is...Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
by Jamie Ford

Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the Western name “Ford,” thus confusing countless generations. Ford is an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and a survivor of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. Having grown up near Seattle’s Chinatown, he now lives in Montana where he’s on a never-ending quest to find decent dim sum.

“Jamie Ford's first novel explores the age-old conflicts between father and son, the beauty and sadness of what happened to Japanese Americans in the Seattle area during World War II, and the depths and longing of deep-heart love. An impressive, bitter, and sweet debut.”
-- Lisa See, bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

“A tender and satisfying novel set in a time and a place lost forever, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet gives us a glimpse of the damage that is caused by war--not the sweeping damage of the battlefield, but the cold, cruel damage to the hearts and humanity of individual people. Especially relevant in today's world, this is a beautifully written book that will make you think. And, more importantly, it will make you feel."
-- Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

Order Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet from Amazon

Visit Jamie Ford's website

Excerpt from Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Young Henry Lee stopped talking to his parents when he was twelve years old. Not because of some silly childhood tantrum, but because they asked him to. That was how it felt anyway. They asked—no, told—him to stop speaking their native Chinese. It was 1942, and they were desperate for him to learn English. Which only made Henry more confused when his father pinned a button to his school shirt that read, “I am Chinese.” The contrast seemed absurd. This makes no sense, he thought. My father’s pride has finally got the better of him.

“Wo bu dong?”Henry asked in perfect Cantonese. “I don’t understand.”

His father slapped his face. More of a light tap really, just something to get his attention. “No more. Only speak you American.” The words came out in Chinglish.

“I don’t understand,” Henry said in English.

“Hah?” his father asked.

“If I’m not supposed to speak Chinese, why do I need to wear this button?”

“Hah, you say?” His father turned to his mother, who was peeking out from the kitchen. She gave a look of confusion and simply shrugged, going back to her cooking, sweet water chestnut cake from the smell of it. His father turned to Henry again, giving him a backhanded wave, shooing him off to school.

Since Henry couldn’t ask in Cantonese and his parents barely understood English, he dropped the matter, grabbed his lunch and book bag, and headed down the stairs and out into the salty, fishy air of Seattle’s Chinatown.

Answer the following question for a chance to win a copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – or just pop in for a chat with Jamie:

What’s another name for Zhōu Rùnfā? (no googling!)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday's special is...Thwarting Magic

Thwarting Magic by Ann Tracy Marr

Ann Tracy Marr is one of the newest entrants to the ranks of e-book authors. Since she loves the Regency period, her chosen method of torturing readers is to throw them into an altered universe. It looks like Jane Austen's era, with ladies in ball gowns chasing men wearing Brummell's elegant evening costume, determined to make the match of the season – with one small, but significant, detail added.

King Arthur, the round table, and Merlin’s magic are not myth, but history.

Yes, Camelot existed. King Arthur united Britain and Merlin messed it up with his magic. In Marr's Regency era, the Round Table rules, not Parliament, and although they are as rare as the man who never sets up a mistress, magicians walk among common men -- and flirt with marriage-minded debutantes.

So twist legend into truth. In the Camelot-inspired Regency fantasy, Thwarting Magic, a rogue wizard threatens the stability of the world. It is magician Adrian Hughes's quest to find and stop the wizard before magic holes destroy the atmosphere. It is his dream to win Margaret Ridgemont.

But in 1814, the fathers decide. Margaret and James Treadway will marry. Period, end of discussion. It promises to be a hell of an arranged marriage. With magic holes forming in the most unexpected places, Adrian’s quest throws him into the deepest pit of all, the void of a loveless marriage.

Today, Ann Tracy Marr is here, plastered to her keyboard, ready to explore this marriage with you, the devoted members of the Book Roast club.

Buy Thwarting Magic in paperback or as an e-book at Amazon or Awe-Struck . It's also available at a slew of online e-book stores, and hopefully sometime this year at Barnes&

Thwarting Magic is one of a series of books. Check out Ann Tracy Marr's website for more information.

Excerpt from Thwarting Magic

An unearthly howl caused Mrs. Norris to drop the Minton sauce boat. It landed on her toe and exploded, spraying shards of gilded porcelain far and wide. Cook squealed, dropping the long meat fork on the stone flags in front of the soot stained hearth. One of the tines crumpled. The juicy steak speared on the fork splattered her apron, skirt, the floor, and the good linen tablecloth a maid had just finished ironing.

"Lands, is a dragon got in the house?"

"Oh, not a dragon--please don't let it be a dragon." Massive thuds rattled the crockery.

At the second shouted snarl, wilder than the first, a footman threw his hands over his ears, accidentally tossing the knife he held over his shoulder. It sank into the potato a kitchen maid was peeling. She screamed and fainted. The scullion dived under the work table, rocking it. A pot of peas tilted and fell atop the shattered sauce boat. It was followed by a brimming pitcher of ale. Potatoes rolled. Another maid cast her apron over her head and screeched.

"Pray Merlin save us, it's the Questing Beast. The Questing Beast is come to destroy the house." To the occupants of the kitchen, it sounded as if that dread creature, which made the unholy sound of forty baying hounds, had been unleashed upstairs. The offspring of a girl and the devil himself, the Beast was the most fearsome of creatures. King Arthur had quailed before it; a kitchen populated by humble servants was undone by fear of it.

"Lordy, it's the devil. The house is possessed by the devil Questing Beast!" Another eerie roar made the hairs rise on Mrs. Norris' arms. "A magic devil!"

Devils were one thing, but magic devils were the stuff of primal nightmares. The Questing Beast--they were about to die. The knife boy curled into a ball in the middle of the floor and sobbed. Maids ran back and forth, seeking hiding places where none existed and the footman quaked. The scullion wrapped quivering arms around the table leg.

Porcelain shards glittered and green peas floated in a sea of ale as the chatelaine dashed up the service stairs to the hall, following the bloodcurdling sounds. Reaching the landing, she slapped a hand over her frenzied heart as the baize door swung open and the butler pounded through the doorway. They collided.

Both reeled; Mrs. Norris would have gone back down the stairs on her head if Craig hadn't grabbed her arms. Another prolonged roar, accompanied by the sound of furniture smashing against plaster, echoed in the stairwell.

Mrs. Norris flinched. "What is it; is it the Questing Beast?" Craig curled a hand tight around her arm and started for the kitchen, dragging her with him. "What is wrong?"

Craig bellowed to be heard above the pounding noise. "The master is in the library."

"Oh, my stars. It isn't the Questing Beast. We are safe. I take it he does not like the drapes?"

"Lime and orange stripes? I doubt it."

"Nor the tables Mrs. Treadway purchased? He does not approve of gilded cupids?"

"No, I believe the first howled comment pertained to the tables." Another crash shook the floor and the butler winced, his eyes rolling to the ceiling. "If I am not mistaken, that is a tribute to puce and yellow damask cushions."

"The celestial blue walls?" There came a great rumble, as of books and lumber crashing. Safe on the flagged kitchen floor, they exchanged horrified glances.

"Perhaps not." A drawn out, guttural yell heralded the smash of slammed doors. Blessed silence fell over the house.

Mrs. Norris cocked her head and smiled, a slow tilt of the lips upward. "Mr. Treadway must have liked the rug. I thought Mrs. Treadway's choice was inspired with all those red and blue dragons thrashing around the edges eating each other."

The scullery maid, her nose pressed against a leg of the work table, suddenly bolted to her feet, screaming fit to kill, "A hole. Right in front of my nose--a hole. Oh, my gawd, it made a hole. Somebody save me!"

The leg the maid had anchored herself to--the leg of the massive oak work table, thick as a man's wrist--broke. The table slowly tilted, sliding bowls, potatoes, knives, and the ham, studded with cloves in a star pattern, to the floor. The table followed. The crash rattled china nearly as much as the master's response to his wife's decorating of his library.


Phew! As you calm down after all that drama, for a chance to win a free copy of Thwarting Magic why not answer today's question?


And be sure to pop in to chat to Ann Tracy and quiz her on her intriguing idea for choosing a winner - she says "the winner of the contest will be the most cynical respondent". Get the cynical hats on and we'll see you in the comments section!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hi! Izza Me Antonio!

I amma sorry to be saying Signorina Speetfire sheeza not feeling so good today. Sheeza very many sick anna cannot be here with you. Sheeza never missing work. She hate missing work. She call me this a morning when I amma in the offees and she say “Antonio I hate missing a work. But I amma sick. You finish this anna that then you canna have the rest of day to work onna jor project. But don’t talk to those a women on fifth floor Antonio. They try to take jor clothes. Maybe you canna ask the nice people at Booka Roast to be helping you on jor project.”

Sheeza not saying exactly like that. How you say? Summarize? I summarized for you.

Maybe you are remembering last week Signorina Speetfire say sheeza finding me at computer inna offees onna holiday? Sheeza saying to me later izza everything OK Antonio? You seema upset when you mumble onna computer.

First I say to Signorina Speetfire everything izza OK. I fine. No problems. But that not the truth and later inna day we talk about some more anna I tell Signorina Speetfire about my sister Isabella.

Isabella sheeza twelve. When I leave my country for United States Isabella not come because I want to have nice place for her to live. We not have home in Italy. We live onna street. Isabella sheeza my sister yes. I love her like sheeza my sister yes. But sheeza not my sister…how you say? Tecknickelly? Her family gone. My family gone. We take care of each other. Sheeza OK right now. Sheeza live with nun in Italy. But sheeza saying to me hurry up Antonio. Find new place to live in United States because they want to make me nun too. This izza funny because Isabella sheeza not like nun.

The place I live in New Yorka New York izza OK for me but not for Isabella. Izza small anna have too many cockaroach anna rat. Summa time people shooting guns. Izza very loud. I look for new place onna computer anna I find a some but they are much money. This izza OK because I get second job! Signorina Speetfire sheeza telling me good for you Antonio if it izza not interfering with a this job.

The new job izza at night anna I sit inna desk with a many many people sitting inna desks all around. The people inna this room we call other many people atta their houses when they are eating a dinner anna ask them many many questions from onna paper. Summa people they do not like a to talk so they hang up the phone before I ask a them questions!

I ask a my second job boss if I canna say my own questions anna he is saying to me yes yes Antonio when you get very much better with a English. I want to a practice my questions so I amma ready. I hope you are notta minding that I amma asking question below to practice. Please answer inna the comment if you are wanting to only. Grazie!

Signorina Speetfire sheeza going to get a better soon anna I amma thinking sheeza going to be here next week.

Practicing Question by Antonio:

What izza the most difficult part for you about writing? What izza the most easiest part for you about writing?