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The Painted Queen

May 17, 2017 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley tagged as , ,

I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth Peters in all her incarnations, from her Barbara Mertz non-fiction, to her gothic mysteries as Barbara Michaels. I like her short stories, the stand alone books, and the series. I’ve read and reread all her books.

I found out last week, quite by accident, that The Painted Queen, a brand new Amelia Peabody, is scheduled to be published. I clicked the link because Elizabeth Peters has been dead these past four years, and I was very curious as to how a new book could be possible. Much to my surprise the book has been co-written by Joan Hess from Ms. Peter’s unfinished manuscript.

Evidently, I’ve been living is a fog for a while because the book was first announced several years ago, and it will, finally, be published in July of this year.

From reading all of Ms. Peters’ author notes over the years, I know that she was friends with Joan Hess (and wouldn’t I have liked to be a fly on THAT front porch), so I think it’s very fitting that Ms. Hess finished the book. I’ve read just about all of Joan Hess’s books as well, so I know that she is more than qualified to handle this task. And it’s fitting that a friend finish her book as she finished Charlotte MacLeod’s The Balloon Man. (You can read about it on the Remembering Barbara Mertz website.)

While I was on the Remembering Barbara Mertz website I found a Rafflecopter giveaway for 20 pre-publication versions of The Painted Queen. (Which, of course I entered.)  Part of the giveaway asks fans to tell how they were introduced to Sitt Hakim.

I remember that well!

Both Mémère (my grandma) and Grandma Trudy (my husband’s grandma) love to read murder mysteries, and they both belonged to The Detective Book Club. Some of you may be old enough to remember these books. They arrived monthly, and there were usually three mystery novels in each volume. Both grandmas were very generous about donating their books to me when they had finished reading them.

The Detective Book Club | Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange







Just look at the authors featured in these books: Erle Stanley Gardner, P. D. James, Ellis Peters, Tony Hillerman, Charlotte Macleod/Alisa Craig, John D. MacDonald, Donald E. Westlake, Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen among many many others. In The Detective Book Club, I found Georges Simeon’s Inspector Mairget, Leslie Charteris’ The Saint, Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax (senior citizen and CIA spy), Hamilton Crane’s Miss Seeton, and Rae Foley’s Mr. Potter (which is who I always thought of when reading about the wizard and kept waiting for someone to say, It’s Murder, Mr. Potter).

It was here I read Amiee, Come Home by Barbara Michaels while I was still in high school. And a few years Elizabeth Peter’s Crocodile on the Sandbank, the first Amelia Peabody novel.

Like my grandmas I passed the books to others–usually to my mother and sisters (all reader!), but I kept the copy of Crocodile on The Sandbank. That book was funny; Emerson was very cool, and it was about Egypt. (My family was stranded in Cairo in the early 60s. Our plane had mechanical trouble and an hour layover turned into a week stay, complete with a trip to the pyramids, my seven-year-old sister escaping the hotel, and a jewelry merchant who tried to buy my mother. So, I’m partial to books set in Egypt.)

I read other Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters novels in The Detective Book Club over the years but didn’t really connect any of the novels with Crocodile on the Sandbank. Then I got one of the books from 1981 with the second Amelia Peabody, The Curse of the Pharaohs, as lead novel.   The Curse of the Pharaohs | Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange

Within the first sentence, I knew that this was the sequel to Crocodile on the Sandbank. I read it in one night and then went to the bookstore the next day. I showed the book to the clerk, and she showed me a whole bookcase of Elizabeth Peters novels and then mentioned that she was also Barbara Michaels.

I may have heard angels singing.

I did hear my hubby tell the kids we were eating out that night because Mommy would be busy. And that he was going to have to get another job, because that bookstore bookcase full of Elizabeth Peters’/Barbara Michaels’ books was going to bankrupt him. (He wasn’t much of a reader then, but I’ve corrupted him.)

And that was how I was introduced to Sitt Hakim.

Amazon has pages of The Detective Book Club available. You can probably find volumes at every garage sale in the US. There are books on Etsy and ebay  and for some weird reason they are listed as decorator books for ‘man caves’ I’m not sure why.

Did you ever read novels in the The Detective Book Club?

Where and when were you introduced to Sitt Hakim?

Will you be reading The Painted Queen?

And that Rafflecopter give away—I won a copy!

Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange


Marianne H. Donley makes her home in Tennessee with her husband and son. She is a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, OCC/RWA, and Music City Romance Writers. When Marianne isn’t working on A Slice of Orange, she might be writing short stories, funny romances or quirky murder mysteries, but this could be a rumor.

You can find her short mystery, Tomato Blight, in  ONCE AROUND THE SUN.

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Pitfalls of Research: Too Much vs. Too Little by @LyndiLamont

May 16, 2017 by in category The Romance Journey by Linda Mclaughlin tagged as , , ,

Recently I listened to a perfectly delightful Regency romance on audio, but some obvious errors nagged at me and got me to pondering which is worse, too much research or too little?

Regency costumeThose of us who write books that require extensive research are always advised to not let the research show. Weave it as seamlessly as possible into the narrative. That makes perfect sense, though it isn’t easy to do. But what about too little research? That’s when errors become glaring enough that some readers, esp. the ones who also write, are pulled out of the story, saying “Wait a minute, that’s not right.”

Sometimes it’s a matter of historical characters acting or speaking in modern fashion. This can be one of the most glaring problems. Then there is the matter of social mores of the time, which vary from one period to the next.

One of the biggest traps novelists can fall into is writing historical characters with 21st century mores. And nothing can make the reader want to throw a book across the room quicker. This especially applies to women. The double standard still exists, but it was much greater in previous centuries. A young woman’s reputation was golden.

War and social unrest have always upset the normal patterns of life, and social mores tend to fall by the wayside during such periods. Still, a historical female character who shows no regard for her reputation isn’t believable unless she’s already a fallen woman and has no reputation to lose.

Regency Throne RoomPersonally, I don’t necessarily mind a heroine who flaunts society’s rules; I just need to believe that she knows what she is doing and is well motivated in her choices. The woman who doesn’t understand the consequences of her actions strains credibility. Women had a lot more to lose in the not-so-good old days.

In the book in question, the problem seemed to be more one of the author not understanding how the social season worked. Societal rules were much more stringent, esp. among the upper classes. It was one way the maintained their air of privilege. It all seems ridiculous to us now, but the aristocracy took these things very seriously.

Lady Elinor's EscapeIn general, a young lady could not be out in society unless she had been presented at court and made her bow to the Queen. In my Regency romance, Lady Elinor’s Escape, Lady Elinor is hiding out in a dress shop, pretending to be a seamstress, which means she could not also be out in society. But we writers find ways around details like that. The one ball scene in the book is a masquerade ball she attends only because the shop owner retrieved a discarded invitation from the trash. As long as Elinor leaves before the unmasking at midnight, she feels the risk is worth it.

In writing, like Regency society, it’s best to know the rules before you (or your characters) break them.

So too much research or too little? I’m enough of a history freak to prefer too much research showing to wondering if the author did any at all. What do you think?

Linda McLaughlin
aka Lyndi Lamont

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May 15, 2017 by in category The Write Life by Rebecca Forster, Writing tagged as , ,

Sew up a Book | Rebecca Forster | A Slice of Orange

Years ago, I worked in corporate America and my client was married to Danielle Steel. When I found out who she was, I uttered seven ridiculous words: “I bet I could write a book.”

One of my colleagues called me on that boast and that’s how I became a writer – on a crazy dare. Having never written before, I tackled this challenge in the same way I tackled a marketing plan: by asking questions about how I would go about becoming a published author. In the old days, all I had to do was write a pitch and hope someone paid attention; these days all I have to know is how to upload to Amazon. But the business of publishing begged the question that was most important: how do I learn to actually write a book?

I decided I would learn the same way I learned to sew; I would follow a pattern.

With one of Danielle Steel’s books in hand, I spent three nights with that book, a glass of wine and a yellow marker. As I read, I highlighted the ‘seams’ of her work. My pattern consisted of noting:

  •  When the main characters were introduced
  •  Where the plot points happened
  •  Where the emotional reveals came in
  •  How many pages of expository were in her book
  •   How long were the dialogue passages
  •   How many total pages were in the book

I wrote for months and when I was done I had exactly the right number of pages, all the characters came in on cue, and the plot was revealed appropriately. What a yawn.

My book was the equivalent of making a shift dress out of burlap. It was technically correct but plain and unexciting. My book had nothing to make it memorable to a reader. I didn’t want to just go to the published-author party; I wanted readers’ heads to turn.   I needed to learn what sets an artist apart from a painter,  a fashion designer from a seamstress and a writer from an author. Bottom line: I needed some buttons and bows, some satin and lace. I needed some style.

I am writing my thirty-fifth book and I have learned a great deal, but I still follow the pattern I created years ago. I have grown as an author, found my voice, honed my observations and come to understand my personal style. I hope that someday a writer will take a yellow marker to one of my books and make a pattern of her own from my work. Then I hope she will be inspired to kick it all up a notch with her buttons and bows.


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Summer Adventure

May 14, 2017 by in category Guest Posts, Spotlight, Writing tagged as , , ,

Summer Adventure | Kat Martin | A Slice of OrangePlease welcome best-selling author, Kat Martin, to A Slice of  Orange

Kat is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Currently residing with her Western-author husband, L. J. Martin, in Missoula, Montana, Kat has written sixty eight Historical and Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels.  More than sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Her last novel, INTO THE FIRESTORM, took the #7 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list.  This will be the 15th novel in a row to be included on that prestigious list.  Kat is currently at work on her next Romantic Suspense.

Make sure you read about Kat’s special May contest. You will find more information after her blog post.


Summer Adventure 2| Kat Martin

Summer Adventure

Every summer my husband and I try to have some kind of adventure.  Not the hearty kind we used to undertake–like riding horseback into the high Sierras or tent camping for a week in Montana.  But whatever we choose, summer is great time for a getaway.

This year, we’re driving from our home in Montana to the Western Writers of America conference in Kansas City, Missouri.  We’ll take the back roads, meander two-lane highways that wind through six different states.

Along the way we hope to visit old writer friends, Kathleen and Michael Gear–authors of the PEOPLE series that takes place 10,000 years ago.  They live on a buffalo ranch in Wyoming.

From there, we’ll head for the Dakotas, spend a little time in Rapid City, a great old West town.  Lots of historic buildings and fun art galleries.

Staying off the beaten path, you can find all sorts of intriguing bits of history.  Sioux City sits right on the Missouri, plenty of steamboat lore, and you can learn about Louis and Clark in Omaha.  If you’ve never done a cross country road trip, it’s really a worthwhile adventure.

Speaking of highway adventures, BEYOND REASON travels the roadways of Texas.  It’s the story of Carly Drake, a young woman who inherits her grandfather’s trucking firm and all the problem that go with it–including murder.

Carly’s biggest problem, however, turns out to be six foot-five-inches of solid male muscle–handsome, mega-rich, powerful and controlling, Lincoln Cain.

It’s high action all the way and of course plenty of hot romance.  I hope you’ll watch for BEYOND REASON and that you enjoy it.

So…what’s your favorite adventure?  Love to hear about it.  Have a great summer and happy reading!




$6.79eBook: $5.99
Series: The Texas Trilogy, Book 1
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Tag: 2017

She’s determined to be successful—no matter who tries to stop her.

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To CELEBRATE the release of BEYOND REASON, enter Kat’s new contest for a chance to win a KINDLE FIRE 7″ Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB and a Kindle copy of AGAINST THE WILDAGAINST THE SKY and AGAINST THE TIDEContest runs from May 1, 2017 through June 30, 2017.


For May, Kat Martin is giving away to FIVE winners an audio edition of one of her AGAINST series books, plus a copy of INTO THE FIRESTORM.


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Spring’s Finest

May 13, 2017 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group, Writing tagged as , , ,

The Taste of Spring


Spring 1 | Sally ParadyszSpring | Sally Paradysz

When I was young, I lived in western Massachusetts. To earn money for a new bike, I picked blueberries at the large blueberry farm in our town. The owner, Blueberry Joe!, let me pick every day that I could get there as it was miles away, and it became something wonderful for me in those years before I turned sixteen and could get a real job. It took a very long time until I could make enough money for my bike, but the fault was mine as I ate more berries than I picked for sale.
I think the love of all berries, but especially blueberries, has stayed with me all these years. I have bushes of my own now in the field, and it is yet another one of the miracles of nature for me. We are having many bees pollinating this year, so the crop should be a good one. My uncle had bee hives in his back yard so I was able to watch the process of beekeeping and the honey that I still love.

As a child, I loved listening to the bees, and watching them fly free. At times, they were not even looking for a flower and it seemed to me that they were flying just for the feel of it. The wind on their body, the noise of the humming, the high-pitched zzzzzzzzz, all turning my heart into a love of mixed emotions much like the walls of honey-combs in my uncle’s white bee hives.

So now I move on from the taste of spring to the smell.


Spring 3 | Sally ParadyszSpring 4 | Sally Paradysz

Lilacs are one of my favorite spring fragrances. I love to stop by a bush and inhale my deepest breath, wishing it would last all year round. Its time is short for flowers so one must do this as often as possible. My other favorite is viburnum. Mix these two together in a bouquet, and you almost cannot take the powerful aroma it gives. I then carry it forever in my mind, and I think the flowers know that.

Flowers are akin to kindness my heart says. If I didn’t have them now in my life a part of me would dissolve, I fear, and all I counted on for spring might be lost. For it is kindness that makes the most sense anymore, and it follows me like a shadow once I recognize that piece. It is tender and yet unbearable if you don’t receive it.

Like the sprout that is hidden within the seed, all of us struggle in our life to be seen and heard, and listened to. If we have this kindness in our life our sense of failure fades away, and we again trust ourselves to see things as we perceive them to be…and then rest.

Sally Paradysz

Sally Paradysz | A Slice of Orange


Sally Paradysz writes from a book-lined cabin in the woods beside the home she built from scratch. She is an ordained minister of the Assembly of the Word, founded in 1975. For two decades, she has provided spiritual counseling and ministerial assistance. Sally has completed undergraduate and graduate courses in business and journalism. She took courses at NOVA, and served as a hotline, hospital, and police interview volunteer in Bucks County, PA. She is definitely owned by her two Maine Coon cats, Kiva and Kodi.


Read more about Sally’s life in her memoir FROM SCRATCH; available in paperback and ebook.



$16.95eBook: $3.99
Genre: Memoir
Tag: Non-ficition

Why I Walked Away From My Life and Built This Home

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