Month: September 2014

Review of ‘Catchee Monkey’

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British expat, now LA resident, Sean Cameron like dinosaurs and carrot cake, and as you might expect, he has a decidedly weird sense of humor. That wacky sense comes through clearly in Catchee Monkey, a Rex and Eddie mystery set in Cloisterham, ‘a place to live.’ I received a free copy of this book for review.

The story starts with Harold the cleaner, who while doing cleanup in an office block finds a body with half a head – the rest of the head having been spattered all over the office. ‘Bugger’ is all Harold can say.

Then, in come Eddie and Rex. A couple of hapless friends who can’t even hold on to jobs as do-nothing rent-a-cops in a shopping mall (Eddie can’t hold on to his girlfriend Melinda either), they decide to become private detectives. Actually, Rex decides, and Eddie just tags along. Things get really weird when they end up renting the murder office and decide to solve the still unsolved killing.

If you like your humor shoveled on in the style of ‘The Three Stooges,’ or ‘Laurel and Hardy,’ you’ll love Catchee Monkey. I can’t say I really understood how the title relates to the story – but, I was laughing so hard, I forgot why I couldn’t understand it. A truly funny book that I highly recommend. An easy four stars.

Review of ‘The Death We Share’

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Patricia Delaney, eGumshoe extraordinaire, is back and better than the last time. Sharon Short’s computer-savvy private eye, who uses her vast knowledge of computers to solve crimes, was good in Past Pretense, but in The Death We Share, which I received a free copy of to review, she storms through cyber space like a comet and shines with the brilliance of a nova.

When retired opera diva and movie star Carlotta Moses is contacted by a sleazy TV tabloid journalist and ‘threatened’ with exposure about a supposed past misdeed, her family contacts Delaney for  help. As is her style, eGumshoe Delaney uses her expertise with computers to get to the bottom of the case, but she also has the requisite physical encounters which must be overcome.

In the introduction to this and her previous book, Short mentions that she’d received writing advice from noted mystery author Sue Grafton, and the fact that she took Grafton’s advice to heart is evident in every well-chosen word. The little snippets of self-deprecating humor – hard to do in third person, but she achieves it – the tidbits about the main character’s background that helps the reader to get to know and sympathize with her are typical of Grafton’s book, but Short has done them in her own unique style.

The mystery world could use more of Patricia Delaney. This could, in fact, be the makings of a great TV series – Hollywood, are you listening? Five stars!

Photography: Orb Weaver Spider

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While at my daughter’s home to celebrate my granddaughter Samantha’s third birthday, came across this colorful orb weaver spider stowing a newly killed insect in its larder. Just had to try and snap a few photos:


Travel Theme: Market

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Ran across this travel theme – Market – and was intrigued, so I thought I’d plunge in with my interpretation:




Interview with fantasy author Linda Ulleseit

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As part of her Back to School Blog Hop I’m pleased to have fantasy author on my blog today, talking about her writing, so give her a rousing welcome.

Linda Ulleseit

  1. How and when did you get started writing?

I started writing stories in third grade. In fact, I have a story about pigs written in multicolored crayon and illustrated with pink circles that have tails. I presume they are pigs since I’m not an artist. In middle school, I did a report on the Civil War by writing a narrative from the point of view of a slave—in dialect. I took a Creative Writing class in high school that I absolutely loved, and in college I had an English professor that had us imitate the styles of great writers like Hemingway and Steinbeck. I didn’t get serious about writing, though, until about 2007. I was teaching sixth grade at the time and figured if I assigned stories and expected students to write them, that I should be able to do it. I set myself the goal of completing a novel that had a coherent beginning, middle, and end. It took four years and many many many rewrites to make ON A WING AND A DARE coherent. Now I am hooked and have to write.

  1. What motivates you to write?

I see the world in what ifs. Every conversation, every encounter, every news story becomes a scene. What if that happened to my character? What if someone said that to a really selfish person? Full scenes run through my head like movies and I have to write them down. That’s the fun part. The work is tying them all together into a novel.

  1. What is your favorite genre, and why?

I absolutely love fantasy and historical fiction. Most of the books in my classroom (and I have over 500) fall into these two categories. In sixth grade, we learn about ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, and China. Stories with characters, emotions, and real settings bring it alive. Fantasy fires the imagination and allows a reader (especially children) to play out possible reactions to real life problems such as sibling rivalry, jealousy, bullying, or losing a parent.

  1. Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

From my head? No, that’s too easy. I suppose my ideas come mostly from my reading. I read voraciously, every genre, mostly fiction but some nonfiction too. I see how other authors deal with issues like coming of age (which is a key theme in my flying horse books) and it inspires me. Now that I have a solid world built with flying horses in medieval Wales, I can put situations I read about, or see on the playground at school, into place and see how the characters react.

  1. What are you currently working on?

ALOHA SPIRIT is a historical fiction piece set in territorial Hawaii. It follows Carmen James, a young girl born on Kauai to Spanish parents. Her mother dies in childbirth, and her father gives her away at a young age. She lives with a Hawaiian family that mistreats her and marries at sixteen. By age twenty, she has three children and her husband has left her. Nonetheless, through her long life, she embodies the spirit of aloha—everyone is welcome, everyone is ohana, family. Like UNDER THE ALMOND TREES, this new one is based on a real woman in my family—my husband’s grandmother.

  1. Where do you see yourself in 5 – 10 years, regarding your writing?

I am close to retiring from teaching. To me, that means more time to write! I want to write another flying horse trilogy—ideas are already banging around in my head. I also have another woman in my family (at least one!) that I want to write about. Of course I hope that more people hear about my books and enjoy them, but my main motivation is to write them. I also wish for someone (a writer’s fairy godmother) to swoop in and say, “Please! Let me take over marketing your books so you can focus on writing!”

  1. Anything else you’d like to say to my readers about writing?

Wting is the hardest job I’ve ever loved. I know just about every writer says that, but it’s so true. The more I write, the better the first drafts are. That is something I tell my students—you’ll get better only if you practice. Of course, I also tell them I revised ON A WING AND A DARE for four years, so if I ask you to rewrite your two-page story twice don’t groan!

on a wing and a dare

in the winds of dangerwings over

Trailer for ‘Death in White Satin’

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See the latest trailer for Death in White Satin here.

Review of ‘Wings Over Tremeirchson’

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I received three free review copies of Linda Ulleseit’s YA fantasy novels some time ago, and while I review and thoroughly enjoyed In the Winds of Danger, I’d placed the others in the queue for reading and reviewing at a later time. As kids get ready to get back to ‘school and books, and teachers’ dirty looks’ it’s, I believe, an appropriate time to dive back into Ulleseit’s well-crafted fantasy world.

Wings Over Tremeirchson is an excellent book for readers of any age. The story of Neste, a rider with one of the competing barns of Tremeirchson, is a compelling tale of a young girl’s efforts to find her way in a world filled with strife. Ulleseit knows how to grab and hold a reader’s interest from the opening sentence, and keeps you flipping pages until the end. I particularly like the way she weaves Welsh language and culture into her fantasy world, making it real. You can see, hear, and feel what the characters are experiencing, and what characters they are.

I’m not only looking forward to the third book, but all that follow. Ulleseit is a writer who really knows how to get your attention. This is a short novella which introduces the world readers loved in In the Winds of Danger and its sequels. Five stars for a great book!

wings over

Weekly Photo Challenge: Adventure

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This week’s photo challenge is adventure. I like nothing better than exploring with my camera, and over the years I’ve had what could be called adventures as I seek out new photographic challenges. Here are just a few – not all of them my adventures, but adventure nonetheless:




Capturing the Moment – Preserving the Memory

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In addition to writing, photography and art have always been my passions. I use all three to capture the essence of the places I’ve been in my life. Travel, by the way, is another passion, which makes a great quartet.

I’d like to share here some of the images I’ve captured with my camera over the past several years – just a few of the thousands of images I’ve snapped across the globe. Missing from my collection are photos taken during my visits to South and Central America – I was unable to take a camera on those trips, so I’m limited to describing them in writing.

The different faces of Africa

The people and places of the continent are a lot more varied than most foreigners think.

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And, of course, one mustn’t forget the animals

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Just a few shots of Cambodian scenes, one of the ten countries in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Pacifica I’ve visited.

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Just a few snaps of western Europe.

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Finally, I’ve done thousands of photos of various regions right here in the good old USA – animals, people, and places of interest – some quite literally in my back yard.

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Just a sampling which I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed.


Review of ‘Mind Game’

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If you’ve read and liked Bob Rueff’s End Game, you’ll like the sequel, Mind Game. Minneapolis cop Hank Hankensen is at it again, this time trying to nab a killer who leaves his victims at famous Minneapolis landmarks. Darcy Austin, a main character in the first book of the series, appears again – the perpetual damsel in distress it seems.

Tight dialogue and effusive descriptions mark Rueff’s work, but even more interesting for mystery fans, he takes the reader inside the killer’s mind. While not quite as exciting as the first – or maybe I was just jaded by the first one – it will still keep you up and turning pages.

I received a free copy for review, and loved it. Like the guys in the old PGA ad that ran some time ago on TV – this guy knows what he’s doing. A highly recommended read. I give it four stars – I’d like to have given it five, but since it’s a sequel, I don’t think it needed as much of the background information Rueff included. Of course, I stayed up late reading it, so there.

Review of ‘End Game’

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When employees of an advertising agency start getting killed in strange and twisted ways, homicide detective Hank Hankensen finds himself chasing a mysterious killer with a macabre sense of the dramatic. Darcy Austin, an employee of the Williams/Bailey agency who found the first victim drowned in his soup, becomes a double target – the killer wants her dead, and Hankensen just wants her.

End Game by Bob Rueff is a titillating mystery that has a bit of everything. I received a free copy for review and was late getting to sleep because I couldn’t put it down. Rueff includes a lot of inside dope on ad agencies, and knows how to grab a reader by the nose and lead him or her along the byzantine paths he constructs.

The real and the fictitious are so well described it’s hard to know which is which – and, in the end, it doesn’t matter. Rueff must be a good marketer, because when you’re done with this book, you’re left wanting more.

This was my easiest five-star so far this year.

A Blue Duck Crosses the Atlantic

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I was pleased recently to be one of the winners of an Apex Hotel rubber duck in UK author Carol Wyer’s giveaway. It just arrived today, and I did a few photos of the bright blue critter with some of the other duck and swan statues I own.




#IWSG: Dealing with Mindlessly Negative Reviews

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It’s that time again, the monthly posting for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where we talk about a host of things, from problems to solutions. If you’re interested in participating, go here to join. My post this month is on dealing with not just negative reviews, but those that are mindless, pointless, vapid outpourings of people who probably haven’t even read your book.  Read on. Comment if you care to.

 If you publish what you write, you put your work out there for all to see – and comment upon. We all would like to get all five-star reviews that wax eloquent about our deathless prose and fantastic story-telling ability. But, not everyone will like what you write, so you have to be prepared for the occasional negative review. If you’re smart, you’ll not respond to such reviews, but you will take note of them, for they might just give you advice that could improve your future efforts.

There’s one category of review, though, that is negative, and doesn’t help you at all. That’s the review that mindlessly slams your writing – often for the most vapid of reasons. The ease of posting comments (including reviews) on the Internet makes this one of the unavoidable facets of the writing life. How do you deal with it?

How, for instance, do you deal with a one-sentence, one-star review that doesn’t even talk about your book? I recently received one of those, and after I stopped fuming, I laughed. The review said nothing about my book, so I don’t know if the reviewer even read it. It was, however, a verified purchase, so, unless this person returns it for a refund, I at least get paid for it. As useless as it was, it also put the title out there for others to notice, and I can only hope that more rational readers will see the review for what it is – or isn’t – and maybe be curious enough to get the book for themselves and form their own opinions.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep on writing; keep putting my stuff out there; and hope for the best. Or, if not the best, at least more fair and legitimate reviews that help guide other readers to my work. Have any readers who are also writers received reviews that make no sense? Share your ‘worst’ review of this type in the comments below

Back to School Blog Hop with Author Linda Ulleseit

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What better way to get ready to pick up the books and endure the teachers’ dirty looks than to end the summer with a fantastic author of young adult novels, Linda Ulleseit. Apropos of nothing in particular, this back to school blog hop features the author and her works.

About the Author

Linda Ulleseit was born and raised in Saratoga, California, and has taught elementary school in San Jose since 1996. She enjoys cooking, cross-stitching, reading, and spending time with her family. Her favorite subject is writing, and her students get a lot of practice scribbling stories and essays. Someday Linda hopes to see books written by former students alongside hers in bookstores.

Her first novel, ON A WING AND A DARE, was published in 2012. It is a Young Adult fantasy set in medieval Wales, complete with flying horses, a love triangle, and treachery. It’s sequel, IN THE WINDS OF DANGER, was released March, 2013. The focus of that book is the misty past of a groom and the murky future of a rider. The last book in the trilogy is UNDER A WILD AND DARKENING SKY, May 2014. It follows a brother and sister, new to High Meadow, who become involved in a plot to steal flying horses.

Linda Ulleseit


As a child, Linda always loved to write. She took her first creative writing course in seventh grade, accumulating a closet full of stories that she never showed anyone until 2007. At that time, she gave the first draft of a flying horse book to a teacher colleague to read. ON A WING AND A DARE began as a NaNoWriMo novel in 2009. It was revised with the help of reviewers on over the next two years. For NaNo 2011, Linda drafted the sequel, IN THE WINDS OF DANGER. NaNoWriMo 2012 brought the first draft of UNDER A WILD AND DARKENING SKY, and NaNoWriMo 2013 saw the completion of UNDER THE ALMOND TREES. This last is a historical fiction that follows three women who struggle for women’s rights in early California.


Linda has also written a novella titled WINGS OVER TREMEIRCHSON, released as an ebook in Fall 2013. It follows the story of Hoel and Neste, parents of a main character in ON A WING AND A DARE.

Follow Linda Ulleseit


Linda is willing to do interviews and guest blog posts as well as have her books reviewed.

Books by Linda Ulleseit

  on a wing and a dareON A WING AND A DARE


On Amazon:

On Smashwords:

Book Blurb: Flying horses…a love triangle…poison….Welcome to Tremeirchson.


In Tremeirchson, a barn leader’s children are expected to follow their parents into the sky, becoming riders of the magnificent winged horses that are the medieval Welsh village’s legacy. Neither Emma nor Davyd, however, want to follow that tradition.


Sixteen-year-old Emma risks losing her family by following her heart. Eager to take her place in the air, she longs to ride a forbidden winged colt born in barn of her father’s biggest rival. She also dreams of the rival’s sons, not sure which she truly loves. Bold and exciting, Evan will someday lead his father’s barn. Davyd is quieter, more dependable, with an ability to get things done. Her father disapproves of both boys and pushes her toward an ambitious newcomer. He also insists she ride the colt he’s picked for her.


Davyd, also sixteen, is plagued with a secret—he is afraid of heights. Refusing to become a rider means public humiliation, his parents’ disappointment, and lifelong ridicule from his brother, Evan. He reluctantly prepares to join his family aloft in the Aerial Games that provide the entire village with its livelihood and tries desperately to think of an alternative.


As Tremeirchson’s barns prepare for the Rider Ceremony, winged horses suddenly start dying. Shocked, the adults hesitate, mired in tradition and politics. Is it a disease or poison? Accidental or purposeful? Someone must discover the answer and act before all the winged horses in the world are gone forever.

IN THE WINDS OF DANGER in the winds of danger


On Amazon:


On Smashwords:


Book blurb:

Nineteen year old Nia is shocked when she is secretly offered the leadership of Third Barn. This new barn full of flying horses will need someone confident, experienced, and innovative, so why are both warring factions pursuing an untried girl? Suspicious that both sides want a puppet instead of a leader, Nia races to discover their secrets before making the biggest decision of her life.

Some of those secrets are unknowingly buried in the disconnected memories of a young groom named Owain. Terror and guilt haunt Owain’s dreams – and then a face from his nightmare arrives in High Meadow. Owain looks for answers in his past and uncovers a dangerous plot that could doom High Meadow’s future. How can he foil the plot and save his people as well as the winged horses?




On Amazon:


On Smashwords:


Ralf knows he must take over his father’s bakery, but is it wrong to want some adventure before he does? New to High Meadow, he is befriended by the beautiful and dangerous Branwen, who has her own goal—to entice Ralf to help her steal a winged horse and return it to Tremeirchson.


Meanwhile, Ralf’s sister, Alyna, dives into barn life. Becoming a groom to a winged foal is a lot of responsibility to the horse, to the barn, and to her father, who idolizes the wrong barn leader. Politics, greed, and revenge swirl around the teenaged siblings as they struggle to be true to their family and their future.


WINGS OVER TREMEIRCHSON (a flying horse novella)wings over

Book Blurb: Eighteen year old Neste rides a winged horse in Tremeirchson’s Aerial Games and she is betrothed to the barn leader’s son, Hoel. Life would be wonderful if Hoel wasn’t so unpleasant to the other riders. Adam, on the other hand, is handsome and nice but a terrible rider. Together, Hoel and Adam are the perfect man. Obviously she can’t have both of them. When Neste’s winged horse is involved in a terrible accident, her life changes and she must make different choices about her future. Can she go against her father’s dying wish that she marry Hoel? Can she forgive Adam? Can she make a life away from the barn and the winged horses she loves?



Free on Smashwords:









On Amazon:




Under the Almond Trees is the story of my family – three ordinary women in California who lived extraordinary lives. It started with a falling tree branch that killed Ellen VanValkenburgh’s husband in 1862, forcing her to assume leadership of his paper mill, something women weren’t allowed to do. Women weren’t allowed to vote yet, either. Ellen decided that had to change, and became a suffragette. In 1901, Emily Williams , Ellen’s daughter-in-law, became an architect – very much against her family’s wishes. No one would hire a woman, but Emily would not be deterred. She and her life partner Lillian set out to build homes themselves. By the 1930’s women enjoyed more freedom, including the vote. Even so, Ellen’s granddaughter Eva VanValkenburgh chose a traditional life of marriage and children, even closing her photography business at her husband’s insistence. When he later refused to pay for their daughter’s college education, Eva followed the example of her Aunt Emily and reopened her photography business. I am proud to call these women family and honored to share their story.

Review of ‘Sucker Punched’

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Sucker Punched by James Scott Bell is both pleasing and disappointing at one and the same time. Bell’s short tale of Jimmy Gallagher, an Irish pugilist in L.A., and his bulldog Steve, is a delight to read. It’s funny – I mean, really funny – to follow Gallagher and Steve as he decides to get his shirt cleaned at J. Wong’s laundry, plays Sir Galahad when Wong is bullied by a German boxer with a glass jaw, gets him arrested as a vagrant, and then beaten senseless by the cops, and if that’s not enough, finds himself kidnapped by a Chinese gang that insists he must engage in a ‘fight to the death.’

Witty dialogue and a gritty setting – probably a part L.A. you’d want to avoid – just sucks you right in. Then, darn it, Bell disappointed me by ending the story. There I was wanting to know what trouble Jimmy would get into next, and ‘bingo!’ the story was over. I guess, though, I can forgive the author this minor disappointment, because he promises more. Well, he danged well better deliver on that promise – I’ll be waiting.

I’m giving this book five stars on account – on account of, I’m anxious to see the next one.