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Archive for January, 2012

Author Interview with Robin Murphy

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Interview with Author Robin Murphy by Diane G. (icesk8tr)



Diane: Thank you so much for doing this interview for PaperBackSwap!! 

I understand you are a member of PaperBackSwap, what are your thoughts on book swapping sites? Do you think they are helping, or hindering the book sale business?

Robin: I had not heard about book swapping until I began to search for ways to promote my paranormal mystery, Sullivan’s Secret.  Once I joined PaperBackSwap, I loved the whole concept of being able to virtually go to a site and swap out a book.  I thought it was a great idea as an author and a reader.

I don’t belong to any other book swapping sites, so I can’t speak for those.  But PaperBackSwap offers so much more than just swapping books.  It would take me too many paragraphs to explain them all.  I loved being able to share my views about books, chat with other readers and authors.  I learned about new books that I normally may not have chosen to read because of other reader reviews.  It is literally its own little community.

To me, I think book swapping sites are helping book sales.  I’ll give you an example.  The first day I submitted my book list to be offered to swap, someone requested Sullivan’s Secret.  I was so thrilled.  In my mind, it was getting my story out there, which is huge for a new author.

Diane: Your book really intrigued me as I love mysteries, and I am very in tune with psychic experiences and paranormal investigations. How did you get interested in this genre?

Robin: I too, have always been intrigued with mysteries, psychic mediums, and the paranormal.  I think my interest grew when I moved to our historical town of Sharpsburg.  I learned about neighbors who had paranormal experiences in their homes, which was about the time ghost investigating shows began on television.  I would sit glued to the TV watching them.  I did the same thing with mystery shows and movies.  When I began writing, it was a natural fit to put them all together in my story.

Diane: This book was assisted-published, how is this different from self-publishing, and what advice can you give to someone who would like to write a book and have it published?

Robin: This is a very interesting story.  When I decided I wanted to write (later in life), I literally sat down and began spinning a romance story.  Not really sure where it all came from and why I decided to write, but it felt great when I did.

When it was finished I decided to self-publish it on Lulu.  I had no clue what I was doing…I sold four books, including one to myself.  During that time I came across a writing company, and for a lark I thought I’d submit some answers to their on-line quiz.  I did it just to practice and see if I could “write on the fly”.

Well, about two or three weeks later I received a letter accepting me into their writing program.  At first I chuckled and almost tossed the letter in the garbage.  But as I thought more about it, I said why not?  It was the best decision I ever made.  I immediately pulled the romance story off of Lulu and realized I had the natural talent as a writer, but I really needed to polish my craft.  I learned a great deal and I was able to publish my first paid travel article after I completed the course.  I’m not saying this is for everyone, but it really helped me learn to put a story together professionally.

So, getting back to the original question, sorry I tend to do that.  Even though I polished my craft, I still didn’t have a clue about publishing.  I sent query letter after query letter to the traditional publishers.  I never got a response…very common.  I also learned through my writing courses that you have to be very careful about the writing scams that are out there.  You should never pay to get your book published.

Well, I searched and researched, and stumbled upon P&S Books Publishing…assisted publishing.  They require you submit a professionally edited manuscript, and they will turn you down if it doesn’t meet their standards.  Mine was accepted, and the greatest education I received from them was the marketing end of being an author.

Publishing is changing even as I answer these questions.  Today, if you do get published with the traditional publishing companies, they still want to know what your marketing plan is.  I had no idea what that involved, but publishing with P&S Books Publishing taught me all of the little details I never would have known if I had self-published.  I gained a great relationship with my publisher and she helped me through my fears with a lot of encouragement and motivation.  She really took the time to answer every little nagging question I presented to her.  I like to explain it as the “in between” type of publishing.  It’s not the big traditional publishing companies, and it’s not technically self-publishing.

Diane: How hard is it to market a book once it is published? Are you doing it on social networking sites, or by other means?

Robin: I’m going to be very honest and reflecting a little on my previous answer, its very time consuming.  If you have not yet published your story and are new to the writing world, it’s a rude awakening.  I had no idea what all was involved or needed to get my book out there.

You see, the key is this…there are a gazillion writers out there.  You have to ask yourself if you are willing to put the time into marketing your story.  Some writers are and some are not.  It’s very difficult for me to work at a full-time job (still dreaming of being able to write full time), find time to write (which is what I love to do), and promote my story.

Here is the process I took for marketing Sullivan’s Secret.  First, I designed my own website (learned this through previous employment).  Not everyone can do this, but there are ways of doing that for free.

Next, I created author Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages. I joined Goodreads and created an author page.  I created my own blog, as well as joined other blogs.  I began doing virtual book tours and interviews, such as this.

I contacted all of the local libraries, newspapers, and anyone who was willing to listen to me or receive an email.  You can’t be afraid to put yourself out there, and you would be surprised how very willing people are to help you out…case in point, my interview with you today.

Diane: What inspired you to write this book?

Robin: I’m not really sure if I had any inspiration.  I developed the idea through my writing course.  They taught me to write about what I know or love, and this genre seemed to fit.  In my mind, that’s what writing has done for me.  As I write, it inspires me to continue to write.  I think as a whole, writers have something to say, it’s an innate fire in our bellies to share it on paper.

Diane: How long did it take you to write this book?

Robin: It took me about a year and a half.  That’s a long time for a short novel, but so much fun.

Diane: Are some of the characters of this story based on someone in your life? Is there a reason you picked Marie to be a veterinarian?

Robin: The name Marie Bartek is part of my mother’s middle and maiden name, but her character is a little like me.  There wasn’t a real reason to have Marie as a veterinarian.  Although, when I was young I thought about being one…so maybe that was a subliminal thought when I created her.

Diane: I enjoyed the character development and friendship between the members of the Sullivan’s Island Paranormal Society and the Police department. I felt like I was right there with them trying to capture the murderer. Did you draw on personal experiences and friendships you have in developing this, or did it just happen?

Robin: First, thank you, I have had other reader’s tell me the same thing.  That’s a nice compliment to receive as an author.  I worked very hard at showing the story through my writing.  I had a hard time putting the characters away at the end of the day.

Second, I would have to say it was a little of both.  I pulled from some of my personal relationships and there were times the characters developed on the fly.  I consider myself a bit of a panster.  I enjoy writing from the seat of my pants…I get more of a rush that way.

Diane: What’s next? Are you working on another book?

Robin: Yes, this is going to be a series and I am working on the second book.  I have the SIPS team traveling and helping solve crimes and cold cases.

Diane: Did you have a favorite author growing up?

Robin: I don’t remember any particular author when I was young.  But as I got older I read a lot of Nora Roberts and Danielle Steele.

Where is your book available for purchase? Is there an eBook version as well?

Robin: Sullivan’s Secret can be purchased as paperback at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and also available through Kindle and Nook Book.  You can locate these off of my website at: www.robinmurphyauthor.com.

Diane: Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview!! I really enjoyed reading the book!

Robin: Thank you Diane, I enjoyed it also, and I’m glad you enjoyed the book.  I just want to say its people such as yourself, and PaperBackSwap, who create such a great connection between readers and authors!!



Robin has generously offered a paperback copy of her book, Sullivan’s Secret, to a member who comments here on the Blog. A Winner will be chosen at random. Good Luck!

Mystery Monday – Maigret Afraid & August Heat

Monday, January 30th, 2012

By Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


Although written 50 years apart, Simenon and Camilleri deal with themes concerning weather, aging, and flawed heroism of their series characters Maigret and Montalbano.


Maigret Afraid – Georges Simenon (1953)


In Maigret Afraid, our favorite Inspector Jules Maigret finds himself in Fontenay-le-Comte, in the southern Vendée. The climate there is usually mild, but given the importance of the weather for Simenon in creating mood,  the miserable rain adds to the fear of the people of the town where a serial killer is pounding harmless people to death with a pipe.



August Heat – Andrea Camilleri (2006)


In August Heat, our second favorite Inspector Salvo Montalbano has to summer in Vigàta when his subordinate Mimi is allowed to extend his summer vacation.  In August, Sicily is sweltering, with a palpable heat that soaks clothes in minutes, exhausts the spirit and mind, and shortens the already infamously short Sicilian temper. Salvo is driven to lock his office door and in his underwear figure out the case of a body found in a truck in an illegally constructed apartment.


Both books address the themes of the effect of aging on confidence. On his way back from a conference of police officials, Maigret thinks about his bored lack of interest at hearing about the latest forensic techniques. Confronted with the uneasiness of this less than professional reaction, he worries, “Was he perhaps suddenly feeling old?”  Similarly, in the tenth novel of the series, fifty-something  Montalbano’s concern about heart attacks and his brooding about his own mortality will connect with a middle-aged audience. Plus, with long-time GF Livia not speaking to him (for lousy reasons, this time), he frets about a weakening will unable to resist temptation to do the wrong thing with the stunning twin sister of the murder victim, who is young enough to be his daughter.  The undermining of Montalbano’s confidence due to his worries about growing old leads to unfortunate outcomes in this one.


The protaganists of the two novels are both honest and moral. Both Maigret and Montalbano  have reached middle-age, old enough to know their own frailties and thus be patient with people whose weaknesses have gotten them into deep trouble. Maigret feels sympathy toward crooks who have been unable to withstand internal and external pressures that drive them to crime. Montalbano feels melancholy compassion toward a wide range of people who have been damaged by criminals, from the grieving survivors of murder victims to immigrant workers exploited to death, literally, in Berlusconi’s corrupt Italy. Both inspectors must deal with the difficulties ethical officials face when confronted with the machinations of politicians and crooks in cahoots. Both Simenon and Camilleri take as a given that men in power will do terrible things with impunity because they assume other people exist to be used, though Simenon is resigned to it and Camilleri is scathing about it.


Fans of mysteries set in Europe – especially middle-aged ones – will enjoy these stories. Younger readers might find it neurotic to fix on aging, but, well, it’s better to deal with getting old than obsess about the alternative.

Cookbook Review – Second Helpings from Union Square Cafe

Sunday, January 29th, 2012


Second Helpings from Union Square Cafe: 160 New Recipes from New York’s Favorite Restaurant

by Danny Meyer & Michael Romano


Review by Carole C. (craftnut)


This is a book that foodies will love.  Beginner cooks may find some of the recipes a bit daunting, but there are still many recipes that are easy enough to gain confidence to try the more challenging ones.


The book begins with a nice introduction detailing the authors’ trip to Italy and gives a behind the scenes look at what goes into the menu selections at the Union Square Café.


There are also some notes on equipment and ingredients that are well worth the read.  The recipes cover every menu category and most contain easily obtained but artesian ingredients like Portobello mushrooms, prosciutto, artichokes, quail, goose, panko bread-crumbs, and artesian breads.


Try the Portobello Crostini, the Pan-Roasted Chicken with Cognac Peppercorn Sauce, or the Spicy Corn Chowder for a real treat.


There are more than 70 pages of vegetable, salad, and side dishes, with some that could easily serve as a vegetarian main course.  The main course section has a number of fish offerings, and this is a separate section from the pasta section.


The final chapter is devoted to basics like making stocks and fresh pasta dough.


Each recipe has an author comment and a wine pairing.  Sprinkled throughout the book are wonderful black and white photos of patrons and restaurant scenes.


One downside is that there are no pictures of the finished dishes.  However, this is still a neat cookbook that anyone who loves to cook will enjoy.

Fantasy Friday – Brak the Barbarian

Friday, January 27th, 2012


Brak the Barbarian by John Jakes


Review by Chris C. (chrisnsally)


I recently read the pistachio joy that is Brak the Barbarian. I didn’t know John Jakes had written these novels of adventure until I read The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories vol. 2  as edited by Lin Carter.

I was familiar with Mr. Jakes for his novel North & South which appeared as television mini-series when I was an adolescent. I have probably mentioned, a time or two, I love the old Swords and Sorcery tales because they are just plain, fun reading. So, I found a copy of Brak the Barbarian through Paperback Swap to study this earlier work of Mr. Jakes.

 Any questions about the influences for this work are answered in the dedication to this volume;

for my son Michael, who has yet to make the acquaintance of Conan,

The Mouser and Fafhrd, Cugel, or the rest of that splendid company

that Sprague de Camp has so aptly named The Brotherhood of the Sword.


During the entirety of this book Brak has one garment of clothing, a lion skin girded about his loins, and one weapon, a broad sword. While I find it hard to believe, I got the impression he wore the same lion skin through the entire tale. I know the broad sword had to be replaced after he threw the original sword into the eye a T’muk, a giant spider-like beast of the desert which bleeds acid.

Brak is no magician, diplomat or politician. He is just a simple barbarian who wants journey to the southern extreme of known civilization to Khurdisan the Golden. Brak’s knowledge of Khurdisan is limited to the rumors of the splendor and glory, beauty and treasures to be found there. As an outside observer of Brak’s world, I have to question why he’d believe the Khurdisan would be any better the perilous lands which precede it.  Perhaps I want to route for the underdog but I just can’t admit that Brak is an Oaf as well as a barbarian.

In each chapter Brak faces a unique monster, each a new and deadly opponent from the imagination of Mr. Jakes. One of the most memorable passages from the novel is, appropriately, Jakes’ description of one of many of the vile beasts which Brak is forced to face in combat;

“Brak realized dimly that the monster must be some vile crossbreeding of life forms older than time. It was able to lift its long fish’s body half out of the pool by means of a series of frog-like webbed appendages down either side of its shimmering scaled body. Brak counted eight, ten, twelve of those webbed half-legs on one side. They churned in a rhythm like galley oars as the Fangfish bore down.”

Although he is paired with a new and seemingly more beautiful maiden in each of his adventures Brak is also the most chivalrous barbarian I have ever encountered. In the end Brak’s journey requires that he take up residence with one of these ladies;

“He and Rhea had taken a poor upper chamber in a bad quarter. They had slept on pallets with a straw screen between them, and lived all the months much like brother and sister, untouched and untouching, although several times … Brak had yearned to speak to her.”

But Brak the chivalrous remains chased to the end.

Mr. Jakes wrote 5  Brak the Barbarian books,  if you’ve read the Conan books, over and over, just click on the following links to the listings on PBS for these books to fill your barbaric adventure needs.

1. Brak the Barbarian (1968)
2. Brak the Barbarian versus the Sorceress (1969)
3. Brak the Barbarian versus the Mark of Demons (1969)
4. When the Idols Walked (1978)
5. The Fortunes of Brak (1980)



Non-Fiction Review – Dogged Pursuit

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Dogged Pursuit: My Year of Competing Dusty the World’s Least Likely Agility Dog by Robert Rodi


Review by McGuffyAnn M. (nightprose)



Robert Rodi rescues a pathetic little Shetland Sheepdog named Dusty. He decides that to help create a bond and forge a relationship he and Dusty should join Dog Agility. This training offers a competitive world of shows, where trainers take their dog through an obstacle course by commands. Robert explains and educates on the world of agility dog shows, and the difference from traditional dog shows.

Robert thinks this is an excellent way to bond with Dusty, though Dusty does not make it easy. Dusty seems to do everything his own way and “wrong”. Together, they literally learn by trial and error. This becomes a challenge for Dusty and Robert, and a funny but touching book to read.

Robert, an educated urbanite and Dusty, a pitiful little rescue dog bond make their way through many situations, including the dog show world. Both make many mistakes, but ultimately with perseverance, they find success together.

The book is interesting, inspiring, and very funny. Whether your dog is a show dog or not, you will love Dusty, and Robert Rodi, too.



Romance Review – Miss Dorton’s Hero

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012


Miss Dornton’s Hero by Elisabeth Fairchild


Review by Jerseygirltoo


This book is part of the Signet Regency line of romances. Signet Regencies were published from the late 1970’s up until the beginning of 2006, but in my opinion their heyday was in the 1980’s and 90’s.  I think they were the first romance books that I ever read and I still love them. Many of the authors, like Mary Balogh, Catherine Coulter and Loretta Chase became very well known and went on to publish longer historical best-sellers. Signet Regencies are easy to spot because they all have the same cover design. All of them take place roughly during the era of British history known as the Regency, the first two decades of the 1800’s, which also covers the time period of the Napoleonic Wars, when England was at war with France. Since they are fairly short books, the plot has to move along quickly; you won’t find any long digressions into spy or mystery subplots or secondary romances. You are mainly reading about the hero and heroine falling in love, which is fine with me! These are also good reads for people who enjoy romance but don’t want an erotic novel. Although some of the authors, like Mary Balogh, venture past the bedroom door, you generally won’t find explicit love scenes. In keeping with the historical period, many of them, like this book, end the same way as Jane Austen did, with a marriage proposal and a kiss.

I got “Miss Dornton’s Hero” and another by the same author through PaperBackSwap. It was my first book by Elisabeth Fairchild, but I never hesitate to try out a new author in the Signet Regency series because they are consistently well written and edited. Some of the authors are more to my taste than others, but there really isn’t a loser in the bunch.

Miss Dornton’s Hero was a nice surprise because the hero, Captain Evelyn Dade, is a war veteran who is suffering from PTSD (not that they knew what it was then) and his feelings and experiences are described in a grittier, darker way than you might expect in a light romance novel. The heroine, Miss Margaret Dornton is young and naïve and she has some unreal, idealistic notions about heroism. But underneath that, she is a warm and sympathetic person with strong principles, who strikes a chord in Captain Dade. They prove to be a perfect match. The hero’s recovery from complete despair and depression, to falling in love, and feeling a sense of hope about life in general, is gradual and realistic. I won’t go into more plot details, except to say that most of the story takes place in London, among the haunts of the upper class at that time, and that society’s expectations are the main obstacle to the hero and heroine getting together. Elisabeth Fairchild writes in a slightly formal old-fashioned style, similar to Edith Layton or Georgette Heyer, which is perfect for this type of story. I really enjoyed the book and plan to read more of her works.

If you are a fan of Regency romance, PaperBackSwap is the best place to get the out-of-print Signets, although some of the most popular ones have impossibly long waiting lists, and on Amazon they sell used for well over their original cover prices. However, some of the lesser known authors are also excellent, so if you see them on someone’s bookshelf, take a chance and try one out!  Here are some recommendations:

The Duke’s Wager by Edith Layton

Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand by Carla Kelly

The Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh

A Highly Respectable Marriage by Sheila Walsh

A Step in Time by Anne Barbour

The Would-Be Widow by Mary Jo Putney

A Bird in Hand by Allison Lane

Lord Rathbone’s Flirt by Gayle Buck

Lord Harry’s Angel by Patricia Oliver

An Honorable Rogue by April Kihlstrom

It’s time to head to the movies again!

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

The Borrowers, written by Mary Norton, is the first in a series of children’s fantasy novels.  Her book won the Carnegie Medal and was selected as one of the ten most important children’s novels of the past 70 years.  The magic of Studio Ghibli & Disney has now brought this book to life on-screen.  We’re excited to be giving away family four-packs of tickets to 5 members in each of the cities below to attend an advance screening of the movie before it releases nationwide on February 17, 2012. 





 Here’s the story…..Residing quietly beneath the floorboards are little people who live undetected in a secret world to be discovered, where the smallest may stand tallest of all.  From the legendary Studio Ghibli (“Spirited Away,” “Ponyo”) comes “The Secret World of Arrietty,” an animated adventure based on Mary Norton’s acclaimed children’s book series “The Borrowers.”

Arrietty (voice of Bridgit Mendler), a tiny, but tenacious 14-year-old, lives with her parents (voices of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) in the recesses of a suburban garden home, unbeknownst to the homeowner and her housekeeper (voice of Carol Burnett). Like all little people, Arrietty (AIR-ee-ett-ee) remains hidden from view, except during occasional covert ventures beyond the floorboards to “borrow” scrap supplies like sugar cubes from her human hosts. But when 12-year-old Shawn (voice of David Henrie), a human boy who comes to stay in the home, discovers his mysterious housemate one evening, a secret friendship blossoms. If discovered, their relationship could drive Arrietty’s family from the home and straight into danger. The English language version of “The Secret World of Arrietty” was executive produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, and directed by Gary Rydstrom. The film hits theaters Feb. 17, 2012.


Check the list below to find out if you live in one of the designated cities and can attend on the specified date and time. If one of these cities is near you, click the link near the bottom to enter the drawing.


Saturday, February 11, 10:00am

Burbank, CA  91502

New York, NY  10028

Philadelphia, PA  19106

Denver, CO  80202

Bloomington, MN  55425

Fenton, MO  63126


Saturday, February 11, 10:30am

Silver Spring, MD  20910

Seattle, WA  98125

Phoenix, AZ  85050

Sacramento, CA  95834


Saturday, February 11, 11:00am

Houston, TX  77027

Alpharetta, GA  30022

San Antonio, TX  78216


Monday, February 13, 7:00pm

Chicago, IL  60611

Harahan, LA  70123


If you do, lucky you!  Just click the link below, complete the questions and you’ll be entered in a random drawing to receive a family four-pack of tickets.  Winners will be contacted via email and then emailed or mailed their prize tickets, depending on location.

Click here to enter the drawing.

Fine print: No purchase necessary. Entries must be received by 2/1/2012. 5 lucky members in each participating city will be randomly selected and contacted via email to receive a family four-pack of tickets. Full screening details and admission information will be on the pass. Date, time and theatre subject to change.