Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Inspiring Inspiration

Everyone needs inspiration in their lives, if for no other reason than to make them feel like they have some measure of control and make positive changes. During my career as a computer specialist, I went to Microsoft's TechEd not so much to learn about new technologies as to get refreshed and jazzed about what the future held for us. It was all about inspiration for me and seeing what we could do to make the lives of our users a little easier.

I've attended seminars, as well, that gave you tips about discovering how much control you do have in your life and making it positive. I admit, I'm prone to cynicism and pessimism, even though I realize that having a positive outlook almost always brings better results.

Two of the best books I've found in the past for those really interested in making positive changes (instead of just blabbering about it) are Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography (which is free on Amazon Kindle, by the way). In fact, Franklin's book was extremely helpful (although my cynical side snickers and says, "yeah, you know he talked a good game, but did he ever actually implement the methods he espoused in the book? I mean, after chasing all those ladies in Paris and London, when did he have time for personal reflection and improvement?" LOL).

So...I was recently inspired by an e-mail I got from Matt Schroeder, who is an inspirational speaker and has written a book, as well. I asked him if I could post the text from his message and the link to his book. My hope is that if you feel in need of inspiration, you may find something here that will help you.

From Matt Schroeder...

I'm contacting you to let you know about my self-help book, "The Rest is Up to You". I've made numerous appearances and speeches as a motivational/inspirational speaker and would love to be a guest or keynote speaker at any event at a church, school, business, or anywhere you think my message could make a difference. I'm an excellent speaker, and this is not my first week on the job. After eight years of speaking and pulling material together, I've produced my first book: "The Rest is Up to You" and it is available in paperback and as a Kindle eBook at the following links:

My Story
I was once in a serious auto accident with many major broken bones and vertebrae in my neck, capped off with traumatic brain injury, followed by more than ten weeks of coma. I’ve fully recovered even though “experts” told me I’d never walk. My family was a major source of support and remains a very big deal in my life.  It always was and is now, and they visited, talked to, and were by my side for more than ten years of recovery. Now I have a master’s degree from the Ohio State University, and I speak clearly, walk, run, jump, and drive!

I had a chance to have an individual, powerful, and memorable discussion with Christopher Reeve (AKA Superman; or rather he was the world famous actor who portrayed the Man of Steel,) on the evening before he spoke at my bachelors commencement (June 13, 2003.) A rare and beautiful photograph was taken just after our motivational encounter, and it can be seen in the videos on my website at, Without describing the details of our meeting, I’ll say it was beneficial to both parties involved, and I often revisit the meeting during my motivational presentations.            

I am a modest person but I cannot tell a lie, either. I guarantee that wherever I speak, every listener (age 15 and over) becomes motivated and/or inspired by my presentation. They are are active participants and through their participation, they gain helpful bits of information that helps to inspire them to achieve more than they thought possible. It is my personal goal to ensure all listeners leave my presentation better equipped to tackle the obstacles blocking their path towards success and happiness.

Thanks for being my friend and best wishes for success!
"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you 
live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all 
-- in which case, you fail by default."  -- J.K. Rowling 
"Failure only increases your chances for success at your next attempt."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Be Grateful for What You Have

     We are so lucky and grateful to all of our friends, family, and acquaintances — Have a happy and healthy holiday season!
     While grateful, we still face challenges and many of you are facing far greater ones than ours, especially in the north east. However, lest we forget how difficult it is, we were visited with a little goblin late last night. He messed around with our power, giving us power to some rooms and not others and shutting off our water pump. So we rose today to find the house temperature at about 45 degrees Fahrenheit and no water.
     Strangely enough, we do have power to the “computer room” so I can work. Sigh. I can’t shower, finish up the rest of the dishes in the sink, or go to the bathroom because there is no water, but I can work. It’s like a punishment for something I’ve done in a past life or something. But we have an electrician coming and we believe we will have to replace the electrical box. Joy, joy. Just in time for the holidays.
     But we still have a lot to be grateful for – we have alternate means to heat the house and cook— and a pond full of water so I can actually flush the toilets by dragging buckets up from the pond. We have two huge wood burning stove that will literally run you out of the house with heat so we’re not in as bad of shape as some other folks. It may look a little old and rough, but it does the job.
     It’s just inconvenient enough to make us remember folks who really do have it rough and have had it rough for a lot longer than the few days we may have to suffer through this.
     So…our hearts are with you and we hope everyone is enjoying a healthy and happy holiday season.
     Of course, I can’t leave you without mentioning that if you’re looking for an inexpensive treat for yourself or another book lover, here are a few items that might make the holidays a little more joyous and a bit less stressful.

Holiday Stories

Christmas Spirit, a Gothic Regency Romance
Stranded by a blizzard, Eve and her mother seek shelter at a nearby manor, little knowing a murderer has struck once and lies in wait for the next victim.
     A blizzard envelopes the English countryside five days before Christmas, stranding Eve Tomlin and her mother when their carriage shatters a wheel. The women struggle through the snow, forced onward by a wraith-like figure gliding through the trees. Exhausted, they find an apparently abandoned house and stumble inside. They are confronted by Giles Danby, a guest at Folkestone Manor. Danby ruthlessly tells the women they must go.
     Their host has just been murdered. A killer is on the loose.
     Or a vengeful specter, if they believe Danby’s father. A specter Eve may have glimpsed in the woods.
     Desperate to solve the mystery and remain alive, they can only hope the Christmas Spirit isn’t searching for another victim.
     Christmas Spirit is a witty, engaging gothic-style Regency mystery that is sure to please regardless of season!

Historical Mysteries

An inquiry agent is asked to expose a spiritualist as a fraud only to uncover a murder.  
     In 1815, an inquiry agent, Mr. Knighton Gaunt, is asked by Lord Crowley to attend a séance with the express purpose of revealing the spiritualist as a fraud. When the séance ends abruptly, Lord Crowley is poisoned during the turmoil by an unseen killer.
Gaunt is now left to investigate not only fraud, but murder. Suspicion turns first to the spiritualist, Miss Prudence Barnard, but as Gaunt digs deeper into the twisted history of the guests at Rosecrest, he discovers more deadly secrets. Inevitably, long-time friends turn against one another as the tension mounts, and Gaunt is challenged to separate fact from fiction before another death at Rosecrest.
     The Vital Principle is the first mystery in the Second Sons Inquiry Agency series and features coolly intellectual Mr. Knighton Gaunt, the agency’s founder. This witty, historical whodunit in the tradition of Bruce Alexander’s Blind Justice, will keep you guessing until the unexpected end.
     “Murder, mystery, and a dash of romance combined with witty dialogue and unforgettable characters makeThe Vital Principle a book that will definitely go on my keeper shelf!” —Lilly Gayle, author of Into the Darkness.

A Second Sons Inquiry Agency historical mystery.
Only Sir Edward had the motive, the opportunity, and a garden full of the identical roses sent to each victim before their death.
     The first victim was Sir Edward’s ex-mistress, a woman who threw him over for a younger man. After receiving a mysterious rose, she dies while alone with Sir Edward. Then a second rose is delivered and a deadly game commences, where roses are the only clues to save the next victim.
     However, Charles Vance, Earl of Castlemoor, refuses to believe his uncle, Sir Edward, could commit the murders, even when the renowned head of the Second Sons Inquiry Agency warns him there may be some truth behind the rumors. "The roses are Sir Edward’s attempt to cast suspicion elsewhere." "Misdirection." Or so the whispers say.
     Convinced he can prove his uncle’s innocence, Vance enlists the aide of notable rosarian, Ariadne Wellfleet, little realizing his actions will involve the Wellfleet household in the killer’s game.
     Before the week is out, another rose is delivered.
     And someone else is missing.
     A Rose Before Dying is a witty, fast-paced historical whodunit in the tradition of Bruce Alexander’s Blind Justice and Victoria Holt’s The Mistress of Mellyn. This addition to the Second Sons mystery series includes an unwilling detective who refuses to let his earldom stand in the way of catching an elusive killer. It will keep you guessing until the unexpected end.

The Archer Family Series of Regency Romances

A scoundrel tries to steal a vowel (an IOU) only to find his heart stolen instead.   
     When Oriana's uncle brings home a wounded associate, Mr. Chilton Dacy, to nurse, she can't help but wonder what sort of scoundrel he might be. Her uncle has a long and sad history of befriending miscreants of the worst sort. Then she finds a lost necklace and her worries only increase. The necklace bears a curse promising a hideous death to anyone who possesses it, and it seems as if it might come true when she's blamed for the murder of a virtual stranger.
     Can Chilton prove her innocence, or is Oriana destined for a personal relationship with the hangman's noose?

     An American heiress nobody wants; a Duke every woman is after, and a murder no one expects.
     When Nathaniel, Duke of Peckham, meets Charlotte, he’s suspicious of her indifference.  Too many women have sought—and failed—to catch him.  However, Charlotte is more interested in dead pharaohs than English dukes.
     Unfortunately, a debutante seeking to entrap Nathaniel gets murdered, and his reputation as a misogynist makes him a suspect. On impulse, Charlotte comes to his aide, unaware that her actions may place her in danger, too.
     Both are unaware that a highwayman interested in rich heiresses is following Charlotte, and that another debutante lies dead in Nathaniel’s carriage.
Some nights just don’t go as planned.

A masquerade turns deadly when a murderer discovers one of his victims survived...  
     After her family perishes in a suspicious fire, Sarah hides her identity by working as a bricklayer's helper. But her disguise can't keep her safe when someone discovers she survived the flames. Alone and terrified, Sarah pins all her hopes on William Trenchard, an inquiry agent with Second Sons. William, however, seems far too handsome for Sarah's peace of mind and she soon fears that involving him may be her final~and fatal~mistake.
     The pair are in for a wild ride as they try to solve a decade-old mystery of murder and deceit in Regency England.
Appearances can truly be deceiving.

     Discarded by his betrothed with a parting sally that “being an earl does not excuse being a bore,” Hugh Castle, the Earl of Monnow, joins his brother on a relaxing cruise, hoping to forget. But a storm capsizes their boat, and despite Hugh’s desperate efforts, he can’t save his brother’s life. Then he finds evidence amongst the wreckage of sabotage and realizes he was never meant to return to dock. Someone intending to murder the earl killed his younger brother, instead. Angered beyond endurance, Hugh travels to London to enlist the aid of the Second Sons Inquiry Agency in finding his brother’s murderer.
     Helen Archer attended the Earl of Monnow’s ball in expectation of celebrating his betrothal, but the event seems destined for disaster. She arrives late, the earl makes no announcement, and Helen manages to lose the fabled Peckham necklace her sister reluctantly loaned to her. Unwilling to admit her carelessness to her sister, Helen rashly decides to return to the earl’s estate and retrieve it in secret.
     When his aunt threatens to send him to his cruel uncle, the Earl of Monnow, Edward Leigh-Brown decides he’s had enough. He’s going to join the navy and follow in Lord Nelson’s footsteps to become a military hero. But finding his way to London is a lot harder for a young boy than it seems, and he’s soon lost. When he bumps into Miss Helen Archer at an inn, he’s more than happy to accept a ride in her carriage, even if she seems determined to escort him to an inquiry agency to hire someone to locate the family he doesn’t want located.
     When the three meet in London at Second Sons, Helen impulsively decide to accompany Hugh to the earl’s home, disguised as servants, to pursue their secret goals. Hugh hopes to uncover a killer, Helen hopes to find her necklace, and Edward just hopes he can find the opportunity to escape again.
     But they are soon engulfed in an adventure none of them anticipated, and Hugh must hurry to identify who wants him dead before their deception ends in the death of another innocent.

That’s the current line-up!
Hope you find something to make your holidays bright!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Need a Freebie for Yourself?

Need a little mystery, a few chills, a little hint of romance?

The holidays are undoubtedly a lot of fun and excitement, but everyone needs a few minutes to relax every once in a while and in the spirit of giving, The Vital Principle is free until Tuesday, November 20!

The Vital Principle is the first book in my mystery series featuring the Second Sons Inquiry Agency. The mysteries are set in England in the first half of the 19th century and this particular novel features the Agency's founder, Knighton Gaunt, a man who gave up social status in favor of discovering the truth. Miss Prudence Barnard is an impoverished gentlewoman trying to survive by acting as a spiritualist until she is accused of murdering her host.

Here is a small scene from the beginning of The Vital Principle where accusations of murder focus more tightly on Prudence. Mr. Gretton, the constable, would like nothing better than to arrest Prudence on the spot, but Gaunt is beginning to have doubts....

Prudence shrugged and stared at the gleaming surface of the table, feeling trapped. “Why do you think it was placed in his brandy? Why not during the meal? Or at some other point in the evening? Surely it couldn’t have escaped your notice that we had aperitifs before supper. In fact, I handed Lord Crowley his glass. I even refilled it.” She sighed elaborately. “Two missed opportunities.”
“It were in the brandy. His glass smells of bitter almonds,” Mr. Gretton replied.
“Is that characteristic of this Prussic acid you mentioned?” she asked, aiming the question at Mr. Gaunt.
“What form does this poison take? Couldn’t it have been in his glass when he poured the brandy?” she asked.
Mr. Gaunt shook his head and eyed Mr. Gretton. “Unlikely. How could she be sure which glass he would take?”
“She?” Pru repeated.
“Poison be a woman’s weapon. I doubt there's any could argue the fact.” Mr. Gretton stared hard at her.
“There are no male poisoners? How remarkable. One wonders if the one hundred and fifty poor souls in Rome would agree after Exili gave them his most careful attentions in the seventeenth century.”
The coroner, Dr. Winters, grunted. “You see where educating women leads?”
Mouth twisting cynically, Mr. Gaunt murmured in a soft tone obviously not meant to be heard, “Clearly, a woman should not be able to defend herself. We must at all costs preserve our right to do it for her.”
Surprised, Pru caught his gaze. He flicked a half-smile at her, shrugged, and grew very interested in the carpeting at his feet.
Oblivious to Mr. Gaunt’s remark, the doctor continued, “There may have been a few men who have used poison. However, it remains largely the province of females to do away with others through such cowardly means.” He rubbed his hands. “I believe I’m done here, Mr. Gretton. I’ll leave you to finish the questioning and make the apprehension. If possible.”
While Dr. Winters and the constable exchanged a few words, Pru watched Mr. Gaunt. His remark puzzled her with its overtones of sympathy. She hadn’t expected anyone, other than Mr. Denham perhaps, to defend her.
As if aware of her scrutiny, Mr. Gaunt edged closer. He spoke in low tones no one else could hear. “You’re very composed, Miss Barnard.”
“For a murderess? Would tears avail me? Or convince anyone of my innocence?”
“They might. A woman’s tears are often most efficacious.”
“Except when the decision has already been made. A trial seems almost superfluous, doesn’t it?” Her voice was low and biting with anger. A deep feeling of ill-use made it difficult for her to remain calm.
“No one has accused you,” Mr. Gaunt replied. “And if you had a hand in this, you’ll get a fair hearing.”
“Then you do think I murdered Lord Crowley? What possible motive could I have had?”

Hope you enjoyed this small glimpse and will take advantage of the opportunity to get a copy for yourself, FREE!

Happy Holidays!