Sunday, May 26, 2013


Did you publish a novel in 2012?  Anytime in 2012 from January 1st through December 31st?

Then ACRA wants YOU!!!!

Ancient City Romance Authors is holding its 2013 Heart of Excellence Readers' Choice Awards contest for published authors.

First place winners in each category win the coveted trophy pictured above.  All three authors who place in the top three in each category win a certificate and a seal for their websites.

Did you self-publish?  Do you only have e-books?  IT DOESN'T MATTER!!!

ACRA accepts traditionally published, self-published, print books, and e-books.

And no, you don't have to print out your e-books.  We accept your e-books electronically.


Deadline for entries is June 15, 2013.  That is the deadline for submission of e-books and for postmarks on print book submissions.

I saved the best part for last...

The winners of the 2013 Heart of Excellence Readers' Choice Awards will be announced at Fiction Writer's Conference on the Beach in October in beautiful St. Augustine, Florida!  It's the Best Little Conference in Northeast Florida in our nation's oldest city.

All winners will also be notified after the conference is held.

Come on, submit your book, you know you want to do it. We won't bite, unless your hero is a gorgeous vamp...but that's only for the Paranormal category.  (My personal favorite.)

For complete eligibility and entry information for the 2013 Heart of Excellence Readers' Choice Awards, please go to the ACRA website and click on Heart of Excellence.

Thank you.  We're looking forward to hearing from you! And thank each and every one of you authors for contributing to our wonderful pop culture. 

You create the stuff of dreams.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Manipulation by Gary Williams and Vicky Knerly

The writing team of Gary Williams and Vicky Knerly have followed their wonderful novel, Three Keys to Murder, with another enthralling mystery, Manipulation.
This is a story of twists, turns, and surprises until the very end.  The reader is never quite sure who the real villain is or who is manipulating the situation.  It's a fascinating read, with a plot line as twisted as some of the characters.
Like its predecessor from this talented team, Manipulation kept me guessing and managed to surprise me with the conclusion.  It's one of those "whoa, I didn't see that coming!" stories.  Those are the best kind.
Filled with complex, interesting characters, many of whom have hidden motives, it is a mesmerizing tale of greed, lust, retribution, and revenge.  It is a tale that you will long remember.
This one is a five-star read.  Go for it!  You'll enjoy it.  But be very circumspect if you ever win the lottery.  You don't know who's out there.  Just sayin'....
On a Sunday morning, Florida couple James and Bethany Fenner discover they have won the $161-million state lottery. The middle-aged city auditor and his 31-year-old trophy wife dream of exquisite homes, high-performance cars, and lavish vacations. In order to collect, they must first make the three-hour drive from Jacksonville to the state capital, Tallahassee. Fearful that someone might rob them of the winning ticket, they tell no one and hire 29-year-old limousine driver, Riley Lake, to chauffeur them across the state in style. But Lake harbors a secret that he’s hidden since his childhood; a secret that will soon be exposed.

As Jacksonville Detective Kay Larsen investigates a series of gruesome murders where the female victims overdose from a powerful hallucinogen, the clues begin to mount against Riley Lake. Yet the evidence is circumstantial, and there is no motive. When she discovers Lake is driving the Fenners, Larsen fears for the couple’s safety.

For the Fenners and Riley Lake, the journey will take them down a dark road fraught with sex, greed, and murder. Only when Detective Larsen digs deeper into Riley Lake’s past will a disturbing question arise: Who is the hunter and who is the prey?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Star Trek In Darkness

Oooooooooooooooo Mama!!!! I love JJ Abrams!!  He has revised and revitalized the Star Trek franchise.  His first film, Star Trek, was terrific.  The one opening today, Star Trek In Darkness is even better.

I'm a longtime Trekker, one of the original group who fell in love with the series.  And no, I'm not a "Trekkie".  That word is not well accepted by those of us who consider ourselves serious fans of science fiction.  "Trekkie" is related to groupie.  Of course, I did attend a few Star Trek conventions, back in the day - had a uniform - was a card-carrying member of Starfleet, the officially sanctioned fan organization.  I attained the rank of Lt. Commander in the organization, after completing Star Fleet Academy (an extensive written course) and was an Alien Culture Specialist.  Uh huh, no groupie there...I can confirm that I never ran screaming after the actors (typical groupie behavior) - I was way too cool for that...(just keep telling yourself that, Sharon.)

But, as usual, I digress.  In Darkness is a great example of a good story that has a hook to grab the audience's attention from the very beginning.  It starts with an action scene - a big, ultimately explosive action scene, and rarely lets up during the course of the picture.  Buy a BIG popcorn, if you're so inclined.

To say it's fast paced is an understatement.  It races along, carrying the audience with it.  There is more repartee between the characters, along with inside jokes which those original Trekkers out there tend to love.  I laughed myself silly at times.  But I also cried a little bit.

There are more scenes shot in San Francisco and some in London, both towns almost unrecognizable with fantastic architecture and transportation.  Some of the action takes place on Kronos - the Klingon home world.  We get our first look at the Klingons in this Star Trek universe - fascinating creatures.  I can remember hearing George Takei (the original Sulu) talk about Klingon evolution in the series where they started out as "a bunch of dirty guys."  That's true.  In the original series, they were actors with black hair, beards, and comically dark make-up with darker smudges added.  They evolved into a formidable warrior people, as personified by Worf in ST:TNG.  Abrams' Klingons are even more interesting.  I hope we see them in the future of the franchise.

Also, we meet a couple of famous characters from the original series and the early films.  One of them is Carol Marcus, with whom Kirk, in THAT universe, had a son, David.  This universe shows them meeting for the first time.  The attraction is there. Of course, Kirk is also shown waking up with a couple of cat women - who have operational tails....enough about that.  In any universe, James T. Kirk has a rep as a womanizer.

We also meet a younger version of one of the most memorable, most evil villains in all of Star Trek. And that's all I'll say about that.  It was a bit of a shock to see him and realize who he was.  But this is a different universe in which different stories are written.  And as in the original version, there are dire consequences to the meeting this time.

The film ends on a high note, paying homage to the original series.  Then the picture dissolves to the credits with the original Star Trek theme playing as you skip out of the theater.

There are some incredible action sequences, depicting huge battles, treachery, and destruction.

This is a great movie and should go over very well with the summer audiences.

My only criticism is about the dress uniforms for Starfleet.  I never liked the gray and white uniforms in Star Trek - The Motion Picture.  I thought they were the ugliest uniforms in the history of the franchise.  And I'm not alone in that.  They have added solid gray dress uniforms for the officers, complete with a stylized hat that looks like something my dad wore in the Army Air Corps in WWII.

Why's it gotta be gray?  I hate that color.  Yes, it's considered very chic these days.  But to me gray is just gray.  I spend a fortune every month to get rid of that color in my hair!!

Oh well, the work uniforms are a much better version of the original uniforms from the tv series.  Look for the famous mini dresses to return in this one.

Seriously, this is a movie for anybody who likes action and science fiction.  You don't have to be a Trekker to love it...but it helps to be in on all the jokes.

My favorite line - Dr. McCoy says something like "listen, I once delivered the babies for a female Gorn.  Octuplets, and those little buggers bite like the very devil..."  that's paraphrasing but you get the gist.  That's for my friend Kellie who has clamored to hear my Gorn imitation.

This is an entertaining film.  Go see it.  You'll like it!  I'm already planning to pre-order the DVD.

Thank you, JJ, very much!!!

Live long and prosper...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

So Long, Sookie...We'll Miss You, Girl!

I've been a fan of Sookie Stackhouse since 2001, long before there was a "True Blood" on HBO.  I read the first novel in the series, Dead Until Dark, and immediately fell in love.  Since then, I've always pre-ordered the novels from Amazon whenever I found there would be a new one published.

I got my copy of Dead Ever After, the final Sookie Stackhouse novel...and I devoured it in one sitting.  That's usual for me with this series.  Charlaine Harris has given us a wry, small-town, southern look at vampires and other "supes" living among us.

She hooked me in the beginning with the love story of Sookie, a telepath, and Bill, a vampire turned at the end of the Civil War.  The attraction for Sookie is that unlike every human mind around her, Bill's mind doesn't contribute to the cacophony of noise in her head.  Of course the fact that he's dark, brooding, and an old-school southern gentleman (except when he bites) doesn't hurt, either.

Unfortunately, she meets Eric Northman, a 1,000 year-old viking vampire and Bill's superior in the hierarchy of the vampire world.  He is tall, blond, rugged, and seductive (aren't they all!!!) Eventually, they are together, after she has a traumatic experience with Bill and Eric rats him out on his true motive for getting to know her.

Then there's Sam, her boss at Merlotte's, whom she learns is a shape-shifter, the first she's ever known.  After that, we come to Alcide, a gorgeous werewolf (have you seen Joe Manganiello on "True Blood"? WOOF!!!) They are close for a while, but pack politics interfere.

After Alcide, she meets Quinn, a rugged burly guy, who happens to shift to a Bengal tiger, a big one...Family issues get between Sookie and Quinn.  Calvin Norris, a local werepanther, and the leader of the werepanthers from the tiny town of Hotshot is interested in Sookie, but it goes nowhere.

Always in the background there is Bill, truly repentant and filled with love for her.  Eric, however, is much more assertive than Bill and tricks her into a vampire style marriage. He probably loves her, too - at least as well as an old vampire can love anyone.  But the vamps have an issue with always saying, "but what's in it for ME?!"  That's what got Bill kicked to the curb in the first place.

Poor Sookie.  What's a girl to do?  Here she is with major guy problems and Fae relatives who are not all nice folks.  NONE of them are little Tinkerbelles.  These are the Celtic brand of Fae on steroids, not all of them "amore'd" with their Fae/human halfbreed relatives.

Plus she runs into vampire haters who have their own church and propaganda machine, wiccans, witches (the dark kind), elves, brownies, demons, and a maenad, bent on causing chaos.

Geez what a life she has!!  Just when she decides to settle on a guy, something always happens.  Anytime she's come to a relatively peaceful place, something always pops up to create more havoc. Whether it's vampire politics, death threats, ticked off witches, a Fae war with humankind, it's always something!!!

But, you know what?  That's what keeps us reading and buying these great books by a wonderful author.  The series is imaginative, vivid, colorful, rich with the southern traditions, and laugh-out-loud funny in places.  As a lifelong southerner, I recognize some of the humans who live in the mythical town of Bon Temps, La.  I've met them along the way...

In the final novel of the series, Dead Ever After, Ms. Harris manages to draw the reader into the action once more.  It is a lively finish for this wonderful series that has thrilled me for the last twelve years. 

I won't spoil it for you by revealing the plot.  Read it yourself.  It is a fitting end that manages to tie up most of the loose ends and bring Sookie her own happy ending...At least that's the way I see it.

If you've never read the books, only watched "True Blood", you need to read the books...The series is good, yes.  I am a devotee, usually watch each episode twice on the Sunday night it airs.

BUT, and it's a big one for me, the television show deviated from the first season forward with some key plot lines.  That's okay.  It makes it exciting.  Even the most devoted fans of the books don't know what's coming in the series.  Certainly not all of the changes are irritating for us readers.  I for one am delighted to see Lafayette continue on the show, well after he was killed in the books, for example.  And I did love Russell Edgington, the Vamp King of Louisiana as portrayed on the show.

I will continue to watch "True Blood" as an avid fan.  However, it does not take the place of the books in my mind.  They are separate entities.

I have this series of books in print books, all but the first two in hardback.  Usually, I only buy digital books these days to read on my Kindle.  But Ms. Harris is one of two exceptions I always make to that rule.

Ms. Harris has one more book coming out in September about the Sookie Stackhouse universe.  I believe it will be a wrap-up or resolution of some of the plot elements and characters in the series.  I've already gotten my pre-order in with Amazon...

Thank you, Charlaine Harris, for giving us a universe filled with memorable, wonderful, scary, kinky, funny people, and supes.  You have entertained and thrilled us since 2001.  Thank you and thank your wonderful characters for enriching our pop culture.

And for my friend also a Sookie fan, who said, "gah! Why didn't you read a chapter at a time to make it last longer?!" I couldn't.  I swept through it, hungry for it.  Don't worry, I'll read it again...

Take care, Sookie!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hawaii Five-0, and then some...

I remember when I was in elementary school, one of my classmates traveled to Hawaii one summer.  She came back and one day for show and tell, her father came with a slide presentation of pictures they had taken in the the time I looked at the pictures and secretly thought "Florida has nice beaches, too.  Who needs to go to Hawaii?"

Then when I was fourteen I read the James Michener epic novel Hawaii for the first time...yep, I said the first time.  I loved it so much I eventually read the first copy to pieces...and the second, well into adulthood.  It was a beautifully written fictional chronicle of the various ethnicities who came to populate paradise, starting with the ancient Polynesians said to have made the 8,000 mile trek in double hulled canoes over the Pacific from Tahiti.  Then the American missionaries came, then the Chinese were recruited to come to the "fragrant tree country" (called that for the sandalwood tree), and then the Japanese were recruited to come and work the fields on the plantations.  Michener's book is a blending of all the diverse people who came to Hawaii and made it what it is today.  I was hooked.

When I was in college, I rushed once a week to a friend's campus home.  She had a television.  So I went over to her place to watch "Hawaii Five-0" the original series with Jack Lord, James McArthur, and a cast of local actors.  It was a good crime drama with a mythical police section called Five-0.  In reality, they called it that because Hawaii became our 50th state a few years earlier.

When I was an employed college graduate, I happened to win a radio contest.  The prize?  A trip to Hawaii.  My boyfriend at the time and I went to Oahu, home of Honolulu.  While there I gave up the boyfriend and fell irrevocably in love with Hawaii - a lifetime commitment.

Also while I was there, I took part in a crowd scene that was filmed for "Hawaii Five-0".  You can't make up this stuff!!!  It was like the islands welcomed me.  I knew I was home.

Imagine my surprise when a new revised "Hawaii Five-0" appeared on the air.  And yes, I am a faithful watcher.  I adore the new young Steve McGarrett.  I was very fond of his previous series, "Moonlight."  I was astounded to see Kono, played by a large Hawaiian man in the original, played by the beautiful Grace Park from "Battlestar Galactica."  The new cast is wonderful and true to form, I love the show.

Over the years, I've traveled to the Hawaiian Islands several more times, visiting the individual islands each time - still haven't made it to Molokai, though.  I did like to float in a lagoon off Maui and see Molokai across the water....sigh.

Each island is a bit different from the others, from the sprawling city of Honolulu on Oahu, to the rain forests and black sand beaches of Maui, to the majestic Waimea canyon on Kauai (called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific), to the Volcano National Park on Hawaii (called the Big Island) where you must be careful not to offend Pele, the volcano goddess.  Kileaua, the caldera in the park, has been constantly erupting since the early 1980s.  It seems the government geologists began sticking probes into the ground around there.  A local kahuna (Hawaiian holy man) warned them they would offend Pele, as Kileaua is her home.  They laughed it off as superstition until Kileaua began erupting.  It continues to this day.  Don't do anything to tick off Pele. In fact you can get on the website for the Volcano National Park to find out where the lava floes are currently and how much new acreage has been added to the island by the cooling lava.  It is spectacular to fly to the Big Island and see the great clouds of steam where the lava meets the sea.

The state of Hawaii, made up of the Hawaiian Islands, is a diverse landscape with white sand beaches, black sand beaches, pink sand beaches, and red clay.  It is the site of the wettest spot on Earth - on the island of Kauai.  There are beautiful tropical settings, green covered mountains, jagged cliffs, lovely waterfalls, and in many places tropical plants and lushly growing flowers.

There are orchid farms, sugar plantations, pineapple plantations, as well as the flowers, adding to the scents of your experience.  Of course when they clear the sugar cane fields they burn the remaining vegetation to prepare the land for the next crop.  That smells like burning molasses and stays in your memory, too.

The sunrises and sunsets are spectacular there, memorable.  The sunsets happen very quickly.  The sun disappears over the horizon in most places, appearing to fall into the sea.  The sun rises over the volcano peaks.  Haleakala, a dormant volcano on Maui, is over 10,000 feet high.  I ought to know, I drove a rented Toyota up the side of Haleakala on a treacherous mountain road on which we met a semi coming from the opposite direction.  But Haleakala is worth it, especially if you are there for sunrise.  You are literally above the clouds as you watch the sun rise....ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Oh yes, the mongoose is all over the islands, like squirrels.  It seems there were a few snakes that had made it to the islands in cargo holds with no natural enemies.  The cane fields, especially were full of them.  So somebody had the bright idea of importing the mongoose.  Eventually they took care of the snakes.  But the mongoose went forth and multiplied and multiplied some more.  So if you're driving in a rural setting over there, be prepared for the yellowish mongoose to run across the road in front of your car.

And on Kauai somebody had the brilliant idea to have free range chickens.  I don't know if they were called free range, but I do know the clever people didn't think to put the chickens in coops or confine them in any way.  The result is chickens run free range all over Kauai, even up on top of Waimea Canyon, as I learned to my dismay while staying there.  The roosters started crowing each morning about 4:30.  That will wake you up for sure...We did our duty in one of the towns on a trip to Kauai when I saw a chicken heading for a KFC across the road.  We shooed him away telling him "danger! danger!" I felt sure he understood because he ran the other way...

Can you tell how much I love the islands?  My fondest wish is to go back and visit once more.  I've still got Molokai to visit, after all.

In the meantime, I will post tidbits on Hawaii from time to time.  And I am starting work on my new novel, Forbidden (Kapu), set....wait for the islands!  It's a historical romance set during the time Hawaii was annexed by the US.  That was in the late 1890s.  I'll keep you posted on my progress, though I suspect it will be like the molasses that burns in the cane fields....SLOW...

Well, think I'll go water the anthurium, the orchids, and the plumeria.

Have a good evening.

ALOHA.  (Book 'em Danno!)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook

Like all the other nominated films, I saw clips of this one on the Oscars presentation.  The clips shown were fine - a microcosm of the film itself.  But this one surprised me when I saw it.

It's a great movie - a quirky, off-beat love story about two wounded people finding each other and learning to heal.

Bradley Cooper as Patrick is amazing.  In the beginning of the film he is manic, uncontrolled and uncontrollable.  Of course that might change if he wouldn't hide his pill in his mouth and spit it out when the nurse could no longer see...

The action begins in an institution and continues when his mother comes to check him out of the place with permission of the legal authorities.

He comes home to his family and finds things changed.  He continues to have manic episodes because he doesn't take his meds - some of the episodes are spectacular, some are sad.

Then he meets Tiffany, widowed sister-in-law of one of his buddies.  She has issues of her own, although she's not under any restraining orders.

They come together, clash, move apart, and come back again to clash and clash once more.  To say the relationship is rocky is being kind.

They are undeniably drawn to each other, although he refuses to admit it for a while.

Surprisingly, the film has a lovely ending, truly something out of classic Hollywood, with just a bit of a quirky turn.

The cast is stellar.  Robert De Niro plays Pat's father, a manic patriarch himself, obsessed with the Philadelphia Eagles.  I just had to laugh at the statement about the character that he had been forever banned from the Eagles stadium for fighting too much....Eagles' fans are infamous for being in-your-face confrontational about their team.  (Remember I'm a Dallas Cowboys fan, so we have been on the receiving end of some of that behavior...) There is a story that the Eagles' fans once booed Santa Claus.

Bradley Cooper is the perfect blend of a wounded man teetering on the manic edge of insanity, and a fragile victim who has been deeply hurt.  His character grows amazingly during the course of the story.

Jennifer Lawrence (Tiffany)  who won the Oscar for Best Actress for this film, is magical.  Dealing with her own trauma, she acts out in different ways than Cooper's character does.  There is a wonderfully clever scene where she heals the schism between Pat (Cooper) and his dad (De Niro) by refuting the arguments with logical precision.

Both Lawrence and Cooper must play a FULL range of emotions, sometimes changing instantly - not easy to do.  Plus, they both hold their own with De Niro, one of our best American actors today.

Chris Tucker has a small but memorable role as a fellow inmate to Cooper, who turns out very well.

The entire cast is well-chosen and well-directed.  The film is a pleasure to watch.

Also, the film's score is very nice.  It's an eclectic collection of music to say the least, but works perfectly in the context of the film.  One song, "Girl From the North Country" by Bob Dylan, sung by him and Johnny Cash, was so good, I downloaded it and now listen to it on my Kindle Fire...good stuff.

In the world of romance novels there are the HEA (Happily Ever After) variety and the HFN (Happy for Now).  A cynic would say Silver Linings Playbook is the HFN kind.  I'm not so sure...the romantic in me said HEA.

See it.  You'll like it. 

Until next time ...