Sunday, January 31, 2016

Review of The Dynamite Room

The historical fiction novel, The Dynamite Room by Jason Hewitt steps into the gladiatorial arena today to take on the gladiators of Gladiators Pen. Let’s begin with an introduction…

About the book:
In July 1940, eleven-year-old Lydia escapes life as a child evacuee in Wales. She arrives home to her English village, gas mask in tow, only to find it abandoned. Her family's house is shuttered and empty. Lydia settles in though, determined to wait out the war.

Later that night he arrives: a wounded soldier, gun-wielding, heralding a full-blown German invasion. He says he won't hurt Lydia, but she cannot leave the house.

The unlikely pair coexists in their claustrophobic confines, becoming dependent on each other for survival. Lydia soon realizes that the soldier knows more than he should about her family--and that he's plotting something for them both.

The book was a little slow to start but you quickly become engulfed by the plight of a little girl in the middle of war-torn England. Lydia and her brother are sent away to safety but the foolish yet brave girl runs away from the shelter back home. Only to find the entire village has evacuated. She thought she was alone until a wounded German soldier shows up.

Though enemies, the two begin to depend on each other to survive their ordeal and begin to form a kind of bond.  From fear to laughter to tears at different times and the reader joins them. The book richly portrays the era and brings the characters vividly to life.

This book is historical fiction but reads as though these could be true events. The gladiators recommend this read to any fans of the genre, WWII era, and stories that touch the heart. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

No Regrets #FridayFlash

Snow blew in flurries, the cloak whipped back from her shoulders. With a gasp, she clutched it back close around her body. This was no day for a woman to be out, much less a country to be at war.

The weather made her job harder as blood stained snow crunched under her feet. The wind howled drowning out some of the faint cries of the men who needed her aid. A chill ran up her body as an icy hand clutched at her ankle under her skirt.

She looked down and swallowed softly, the young face half torn and bloodied by his enemy. His coat was blue a Union soldier. She was told to pass them by, they only had time for their own today.

Sarah pulled her foot from his loose grasp and started to move on.

The Yankee attempted to rise as he reached that trembling hand out. “Please…”

The plea tore at her soul as her mind replayed the doctor. His arthritic finger shaking in her face at dawn this morning with warning their supplies were dwindling. “To hell with that ole sawbones.”

Sarah turned back and knelt beside the young blue coat. “Easy, now. I’ll do what I can.”

He lay back in the snow, soft white mixed with blood, soot, and gunpowder. Carefully she tried to find his wound. By the way his face squinched and scrunched as he moved there was something far worse than the cuts and scrapes on the side of his face.

The poor boy was already blue enough to match his coat in the winter air. She tried not to open his coat too wide and lose what little warmth he had. His body shivered hard as she found the cause of his great discomfort.

She drew her fingers back from the wound and saw the blackened blood. Her heart sank lower. This ‘man’ couldn’t be more than sixteen, too young for wars against brothers. Far too young to die.

Sarah ad seen the cantankerous physician diagnose many soldiers with a wound like this one. The blood stained black meant the Federal’s internals had been damaged. All they could do was make comforts, take his last words.

Heaviness filled her for not the first time today. Sarah buttoned his coat back and gave the young man a gentle smile.

His eyes held the knowledge of his future. His hand trembled, flakes of ice fell from the digits as they wrapped around hers. “Write my mother, tell her I was brave.”

Sarah nodded once as the snow began to fall again. “What is your name, where does she live?”

He blinked snowflakes from his eyes as he took a ragged breath. “Thomas Lee Brunell. My parents live in Boston, George…..” He had to pause as his body heaved and coughed speckling his lips with dots of red.

Sarah smoothed back his hair and tried to calm him. “Shh, be still now. I’m sure your ma and pa are most proud of their brave son.”

Thomas gave her a smile, for a moment it softened those frightened hazel eyes. “I was, I fought well. I have one regret, I never kissed a girl.”

She smiled softly at the surprise in his pained expression. Many men have made confessions and requests as she tended them. None were so innocent as young Thomas. “Do you have a girl you’d like to kiss?”

Thomas gave her a slight nod, and tapped his watch. She opened and held it up for him to see the photo inside the lid. “She’s lovely, Thomas.”

“Her name is Sarah.” He paused to gather strength. “She’s waitin, for me.” It was plain in his expression he realized he wasn’t going to get that kiss with the pretty girl in the picture. His regret.

Her heart clenched for the young man. She brushed his cheek gently with her fingers. “My name is Sarah.” She pressed a soft kiss to his lips and felt him smile with the delight.

His grip tightened for a moment then the fingers uncurled from her hand. Sarah looked down at him, “Don’t leave me, Thomas.”

The hazel eyes were still, but there was a sweet grin on his face. Her breath caught as she placed his hands on across his chest. Sarah stood and gathered her meager bag of medical supplies. Sarah moved to the next call for help.

Now and then, she would glance over as the snow covered the young Federal, he had passed with no regrets. If she survived this war, Sarah swore to live without regret. The memory of a bittersweet kiss to remind her. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Horse Named Dog Book Blitz

Monday, November 9, 2015

How to win NaNoWriMo: Realistic Goals, determination and a bottomless pot of coffee

Writing 50,000 words in 30 days might seem daunting. There will be days mid-November it feels that way.
A writer questions their sanity level on accepting such a wild notion of writing an entire novel rough draft in a month. It can be done if the writer is determined.

It takes a special kind of dedication to the craft of word spinning to stick to daily goals and make the novel a priority. This becomes hard when life happens and shakes up a writer’s daily routine. That is where making goals for your writing and novel become important.

Sure, the goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 crazed days. However, that’s the big picture and the thought of the number 50,000 can make the head spin. (no pea soup, just head spinning) To ease the panic of “OMG I’m behind on my word count!” Make realistic NaNo goals that will fit your average day.

Have a word count goal for each day. NaNo suggests at least 1,667 words per day. Maybe you work long hours and can write each day but not that much. That’s okay. Your realistic goal might be 800 words on a workday and 3,000 on days off. Don’t be afraid of falling behind. Most everyone is going to fall behind at some point.

That’s where that determination comes in. If you fall behind don’t panic or give up on winning. You can do it. Just adjust those daily goals, brew a pot of coffee and challenge yourself a bit more to grab time to write those words.

We can do it; we just need realistic daily writing goals, a strong determination, and a bottomless pot of hot coffee. (Preferably a Mocha Peppermint or Red Velvet Latte heavy on the whip cream. Yum!)

I’ll see you in the winner’s circle. I’ll probably be a lil tipsy on the caffeine: D If you would like to add me as a NaNo Buddy: flsandcastle

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Trials and joys of writing guest post by Rhonda Walker

Hello readers! It’s great you could join us today. Today’s feature is a guest post by children’s and inspirational author Rhonda Walker. She’ll be talking about her upcoming release Wesley Out West and her reading and writing journey.

So pour a cuppa and prop up your feet to enjoy the read. Make sure to enter the Rafflecopter contest at the bottom of the post for your chance to win a personalized autographed copy of Wesley Out West and a cute Wesley plushie!

Trials and joys of writing by Rhonda Walker

Willie Out West (2013, WestBow Press) was my first published children’s story. It was so well received that I am re-launching an updated version, Wesley Out West (2015, JLB Creatives Publishing) is in a smaller size and contains an educational supplement for parents and teachers. If you read Willie I know you will enjoy Wesley even more. The “Fun Facts” and photos of the real sea mammals are educational and enjoyable for children and adults alike. The book size is more comfortable for young children to hold and carry, and the response thus far is widely encouraging. Enjoy.

I always loved books. In seventh grade I walked every day to my little New Mexico town’s library, checking out the maximum number of books. I returned within a day, replacing those books with more. I also used my allowance to purchase every juvenile book of interest: the Hardy Boys and other popular series. I found Nancy Drew boring. During my eighth grade summer, Mother took me on a weekly trek (30-miles one way) from our mobile home in a New Mexico desert mining community into the town of Grants. There, I devoured all of the town library’s westerns (Kit Carson, etc.), mysteries (Ellery Queen, Perry Mason), and stories about Geronimo and other Native Americans.

I carried my love for reading to college and majored in English and elementary education. These classes opened a door to children’s literature that will never close.  I read almost 300 children’s books in one semester. I thank God for blessing me with a passion for children’s literature, the desire to write children’s stories (there were so many bad books, I just knew I could write better), and the desire to develop whatever ability I possessed.

In 1976, I wrote two grammar stories which, amazingly, found their way into a textbook for first graders. However, I had little faith in my ability and gave up after one failed attempt to publish. I published two women’s inspirational articles and edited several women’s church newsletters during the succeeding years, but nothing else. 

Years later I set out to discover why certain women of faith remained strong in spite of unbearable and continual trials in their lives. For two years, I interviewed women; thus was born my first book, “Beyond the Shadow is Tomorrow: Stories of Women of Faith,” published by WestBow Press in 2013. I encourage all Christian women looking for strength and encouragement to read this book. The book still brings great reviews from those seeking answers and encouragement while going through rough times, and it is still for sale through my web site or e-mail.

“Icing, Locusts & Life” is about to be released by JLB Creatives Publishing, and I am so excited. The reviews are already coming in on this inspirational book for men and women.  I encourage readers to reach out and embrace the world and its wonders. Every day is icing on the cake of our lives, no matter how bad our circumstances or how hard it is raining. Every day I have a choice to make when I get out of bed (or even if I cannot get out of bed). It is how we choose the icing of our days, light or dark, which determines how we meet the locusts that visit the beautiful fields and gardens of life.

My life is challenging, fantastic, miracle filled, and troubled—sometimes all at once. There are memories of the blessings of family and friends mixed with my own success and failure. In spite of everything a long life can deliver, I find reason every day to be grateful that God provides abundant blessings. Even with the traumas of illness, embarrassing personal failures, and sadness beyond words, there is one thing that is good: I am still alive to see it dawn a better day.

I have more children’s stories on my desk, and my first novel is begun. No one knows tomorrow’s outcome, but today has been good. Tomorrow will be white icing, no matter what the day brings.

Be blessed. What color is your icing?

About Rhonda Walker
EVERY DAY IS ICING ON THE CAKE OF MY LIFE. It is challenging, fantastic, miracle filled, and troubled—sometimes all at once. There are memories of the blessings of family and friends, successes, and failure. I live daily in grateful awareness for a God who provides abundant blessings, especially during times of embarrassing failures.

I discovered my passion for reading early in life (right after the ark anchored on a mountain top.) In 1979, when my daughters were young, I returned to college. There, English and education professors taught me some needed writing basics and opened the door to children’s thinking. In truth, though, I began writing for myself in 1975, and my style was already developed. God blessed me with a passion for reading, the love of writing, and whatever ability I possess.

With training, skills, and God’s help, I fulfilled a long-held dream of writing stories for young readers. Several years ago, two of my grammar stories were published in a Scott Foresman textbook for first graders, and plans are under way to put those stories and others into a grammar-series book. I write stories to encourage enjoyment and learning through reading.

Follow Rhonda around the web
Blog: The Word Asylum

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stop by for more about Wesley Out West and great reads for ages 1 to 100!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

5 ways to pad your NaNoWriMo word count without cheating

The daily word count writers need to reach is 1,667 words. That doesn't seem like an unreasonable amount of words to write in an entire day. (Are they crazy? )  But there are days that life will interfere with our lofty noveling goals. Try one of these tricks when your fingers start to slow.

1. Sprinting
Meet up with other Wrimos in person or online and see who can write the most words in a set amount of time. Most sprints are 10-20 minutes long. This is great for a tweet-up. You'll be amazed at how many words you can get down with a couple hours of sprinting. Not to mention the fun! 

2. Long Lost Friend /Relative
If you feel your scene is dragging or you just can't get those words out. Try having your character run into an old friend or relative while their out and about. Or even a phone call from them. You can add tons of words as they reminisce about old times or that Thanksgiving when Aunt Mable's cat ate the stuffing. Even if it's something you may edit out in the next draft it will breath some new life into your muse and pad that count! 

3. Disaster Strikes
A hurricane heading in, a freak F5 tornado, earthquake, flood, a 3-10 car pile up. Any one of those can add at least a couple of pages worth of wordiness. You have the before, during, and effects after that might even bring out some qualities you didn't know your characters had. 

4. Kill'em
Let's face it. Death is wordy. Not matter how or who gets bumped off you've get at least 4 scenes off a corpse turning up. The death itself, the discovery, the aftermath, and the funeral, lots and lots of words. 

5. Use Your Senses
You have 5 senses taste, touch, scent, sight, sound. Every single environment your characters walk into, or crash into in some cases, holds each of these elements just waiting for you to detail them. A car crash could have the scent of smoke and gasoline in the air. They would see broken glass, dented and crushed cars, hear someone crying for help or a siren approaching, maybe a car horn. Taste blood from a gash, or if gas is thick in the air it will leave a taste on your tongue. They may feel the ache of injury or the rough edges or the broken plastic of the dash. Talk about filling the pages, just let your nose guide you.... literally.

These are my favorite tricks for padding my word count without cheating. Now, let's stop procrastinating and get back to that novel! 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Author Chat with Rhonda Walker plus a Rafflecopter giveaway!

 Hi! So glad you could join us today for a chat with Rhonda Walker, author of children’s and inspirational an personalized autographed copy of Wesley Out West and a plushie Wesley!
books. We hope you enjoy the chat…and be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of this post for a chance to win

Before we begin, here is a bit about Rhonda Walker:
EVERY DAY IS ICING ON THE CAKE OF MY LIFE. It is challenging, fantastic, miracle filled, and troubled—sometimes all at once. There are memories of the blessings of family and friends, successes, and failure. I live daily in grateful awareness of a God who provides abundant blessings, especially during times of embarrassing failures.

I discovered my passion for reading early in life (right after the ark anchored on a mountain top). In 1979, when my daughters were young, I returned to college. There, English and education professors taught me some needed writing basics and opened the door to children’s thinking. In truth, though, I began writing for myself in 1975, and my style was already developed. God blessed me with a passion for reading, the love of writing, and whatever ability I possess.

With training, skills, and God’s help, I fulfilled a long-held dream of writing stories for young readers. Several years ago two of my grammar stories were published in a Scott Foresman textbook for first graders, and plans are underway to put those stories and others into a grammar-series book. I write stories to encourage enjoyment and learning through reading.

What inspired you to begin writing children’s books?

Reading more than 300 children’s books in a college class convinced me there were so many bad books, someone had to write better ones, and I knew I could do better than many of the ones I was forced to read. In the process I became enamored with reading the fun books.

How did you get the idea for Wesley Out West?

I was looking at animals and saw a walrus sitting in a zoo. I thought about them sitting on ice and wondered if they got bored, and what if they had houses (like Eskimos). The story took off from there. I grew up in New Mexico, so I sent him on an adventure far away

Do you have a writing process/routine or just write when the muse hits?

When I get an idea, it is usually from something I see. I usually envision how it ends, and I see a scene or two in between. Then I have to fill in what happens in the blank spaces.  Sometimes I wake from a dream with an idea and think about it the next day. Usually I “see” the ending within the next day or two, or often I have another dream that reveals the ending. My first novel came in 3 dreams over a month. Dream 1: the girl, very young; #2: growing up;  #3: her name. I saw much emotion in the dreams, and she quickly became a part of me. You will meet her sometime next year, I hope.

Are there any books or authors that have inspired you?

Actually, I grew up reading mysteries and westerns: Perry Mason, Hardy Boys, Louie L’Amour, biographies about Western & American heroes. It wasn’t the author as much as the word pictures they drew that pulled me in and inspired my soul. Today I admire Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts (writing as J.D. Robb), Clive Cussler, Catherine Coulter, Iris Johansen. For so many years I loved Mary Higgins Clark, and only recently have I turned more to Fern Michaels in that genre. My two favorite southwest mystery writers are Tony Hillerman (his death was tragic for me) and J.A. Jance. Come to my library and you will find a wall of many authors, but these will be my largest collections.

My favorite children’s books are Rain Makes Applesauce. Both of my daughters had me read the book over and over. One of them can still quote parts of it today. I never get tired of Where the Wild Things Are. The Dr. Seuss series has so much to offer in the way of learning opportunities and rhyming charm that adults still quote entire sections of the books. These standards became such because they offer visual and verbal gifts to the child that add to the child’s memory bank in a way that encourages that child to want a rerun of that experience.

What did you do before becoming an author? Is there something from your job that has helped you as an author?

Many things…some successful, some not. Some not because I wasn’t doing what I love.
I spent many years as secretary, then executive assistant; I served as Service to Military Families Caseworker for American Red Cross during the Vietnam War; I owned a small retail business of sports embroidery and sports charms; I was a legal assistant for a number of years. I have a BA in English and elementary education and am certified to teach English and elementary school through 8th grade; I substituted for a time. I believe each of these experiences helped me better understand life and how each person sees the world from a unique perspective. Lawyers have perspective on life that is uniquely different from the school secretary or janitor. And the soccer mom priorities are not the same as those of a just-returned-from-war soldier who lost his best friend.

Did you learn something about yourself or writing while writing Wesley Out West?

I learned a lot about the mammals in my book. For instance: an octopus will turn red when it becomes frightened. Didn’t know that. It was a learning experience for me.

Tell us about three things in your writing space? What memory or importance do they hold to inspire your writing?

I write near windows to remind myself that there is a world out there to keep me from withdrawing into my own little world of the computer.

I have a small hot air balloon hanging from my lamp to remind me to stay light and
think of happy things. Hot air balloons always make me feel better.

I keep pictures of my family where I can see them to remind me I have love, and I have
notes from some who have read my books and took time to say they appreciate my efforts. I can’t tell you how much that means to me. On days when I feel I’ve wasted my time and energies on a path with no future, their words give me courage to keep on.

You have another upcoming book, Icing, Locusts, & Life. Can you tell us a little about it?

Every day is icing on the cake of my life. When I get up each day I have the choice of deciding to make the day a good, bright day (regardless of whether the sun shines or not), or cover my emotional cake with the dark icing that the locusts of days past have destroyed. During our lives, locusts appear, as explained in The Bible: Joel 2:25. However, the prophet also tells us that God will repay us for the days that the locusts have eaten, and I lean upon that promise to build the life that I live today and
hope for the life of tomorrow, whatever that life brings me on earth and hereafter.

 Tell us why parents should buy Wesley Out West for their child’s library?

I am really excited that we are including something unique in Wesley. In addition to the wonderful colorful illustrations that stimulate a young child’s brain, we added a supplement for parents and teachers at the back of the book. There is a “Fun Facts” section for each mammal in the book, along with a photo of the mammal. This allows the parent/teacher a learning opportunity in addition to providing the child a fun story.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write books for children?

Writing is not just sitting down and telling a story. Well, it is; but it is also a matter of telling a story that is age appropriate, easily understandable, and of length appropriate for the age. I found out the hard way that the illustrations may be great for first graders, but the language is more graded for 3rd graders. The 1st graders lose attention by page 3.

My best suggestion is: read 300 books. Seriously. Go to your children’s library and start reading every children’s book at every level. When you find a level you feel is at a level you think might be the most comfortable writing at, start reading again, at that level.

Then take a few writing courses online. While not “kiddie lit” oriented, my very favorite writing course is The Write Practice. Joe Bunting does a fabulous job of sending out information and giving out exercises following his hints each week. I’ve learned a lot from his weekly exercises. I highly recommend you get hooked up with anything he does.  Fabulous.

If you join LinkedIn on the web, there are groups you can join that are specifically children lit oriented, and you can easily find courses about writing for children.  

Although there are generally no such things as first-time writing wonders, there are exceptions to this rule. One exception to this is Janice Spina, who began her writing success as a child. If you go to my web site,, you will find her guest post. She is the exception and does great stories. But even she still learns by taking seminars. I am sure she would be happy to give anyone pointers. Her contact information is on any of her books and, I believe, on her guest post.

Good luck to each of you wanting to write. It is not an easy one-step process, but it is worthwhile and very fulfilling once you get started. I wouldn’t trade it for anything…well, most of the time. J

Thanks for stopping by! For more about Wesley Out West and other fantastic books for all ages, be sure to visit