Thursday, January 31, 2013

Brandi Schmidt visits Penny's Tales

Debut novel by Brandi Schmidt
Represented by MuseItUp Publishing, Release Date March 2013

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Tru Darling is a Sparkler. She didn’t choose to be almost electrocuted, inherit otherworldly powers, and fall for the hottest evil guy in St. Louis—but that’s exactly what happened. Her power to see true love spark in the eyes of strangers, to watch it flicker with excitement, fuse with it’s perfect match, or witness it burn out from despair, is a wonderful curse that drains her emotionally and physically. But she can’t afford to be weak while she’s hunting down soul mates, saving others’ faith in love, and contemplating if her new hot boyfriend is her guardian angel or the angel of death. Being a Sparkler may have its perks; enhanced vision, intuition, and physical beauty. But what of the personal costs that come with Tru’s destiny? Constant danger, unbearable pain, and lost souls she just can’t save. Tru must choose between a normal life without love or a birthright that comes with great passion, danger, and responsibility.

Mini Excerpt:
“We are like these branches. They kindle the flame and allow the fire to grow. When the fire can sustain itself, they disappear into the ashes. You can try to start the fire by holding a flame to the logs, but it’s a difficult and timely process, if you complete it at all. Most of the time you would give up, exhausted and frustrated.” He paused to look deep into my eyes. “You can try to force a fire, pretend it’s there, but eventually you will come to know the truth. A pretend flame doesn’t have any heat.” He stood and moved toward me with his beautiful blue eyes sparkling in the light of the fire that had already begun to blaze beside him. As he neared me, I could feel my heart race and my face flush.

He knelt at the couch and continued, “You see, we are the kindling for love. We facilitate the fire that burns between two people.” He was whispering now, only inches from me. “Can you feel the heat?”

About the Author:
Brandi Schmidt lives outside St. Louis with her husband, three beautiful children, and one loveable Golden Retriever. She is in love with love and admittedly cries at anything sappy. She graduated from Washington University with a BA in Biomedical Engineering Science, but soon found statistics and facts were too confining for her creative mind. Thus, writing became her release into a new and wonderful world of words.

I want to thank Brandi for stopping by Penny's Tales today.  Your book sounds fabulous and with that gorgeous smile, how could you, and your story, not be a huge success!  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Stan Hampton stops by Penny's Tales

Vellum – It’s What’s for Writing!

            Okay, so that was a bad take-off on a popular commercial from several years ago. Okay, maybe a couple of decades.
            Anyway, I am a middle aged grandfather. I have wanted to be a writer since I was 15 years old, but it was not until 1992 that my first short story was published. And nothing else happened until 2001. After that I have made steady progress in being published. I’m not rich yet, but one can always hope.
            So, why be a writer? I am not sure but I have plenty of stories I want to tell. Though I may never be rich or even well off, I will keep telling stories for as long as I can.
            Hand in hand with the desire to tell stories is my love for books. It probably began when I lived with my grandparents. One day I discovered a bunch of old books in a bookcase. One of those was a large green book in which I first discovered the names of Captain Cook, Ferdinand Magellan, Christopher Columbus, and a host of other explorers, all presented with black and white woodcut illustrations. But what I remember most about the book was the thick, stiff pages—these were heavy duty pages, not like today’s thin pages of paperback books or even textbooks. Then too, that was a heavy duty book meant to last for awhile unlike most of today’s books.
            A thousand years ago books used heavy duty pages meant to last for awhile—vellum. Though I knew the terms “vellum” (parchment made from calf skin) and “parchment” (calf, goat, or sheep skin), their meaning never truly sank in <>. One bright, momentous day not too long ago I discovered YouTube! Suddenly I had a very visual world in front of me. Almost anything I typed into the search bar produced some sort of video clip, usually around 1-3 minutes long.
            It wasn’t long before I learned a bit about how vellum is made—the soaking and washing of the skins until the hair could be scraped away, followed by stretching on a wooden frame. After the reverse side of the skin was scraped free of any remaining meat, the skin was allowed to dry. Then it was “polished” with a stone. Finally, the skin—officially called vellum—was cut out of the frame. Then began the process by which the vellum was trimmed and prepared for writing, illumination, and insertion into a book. As Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame would describe the process, “Fascinating.”
            Medieval society had its throw-away tools as we do, but more from necessity than design. The scribes used bird feathers or reeds to write with. Writing needed ink, which was made from natural materials. For illumination, the multi-colored borders, oversize letters, and painted designs, a variety of materials were blended to produce the needed colors. Again, “Fascinating.”
            Truly, I am in awe of the many scribes who tirelessly and patiently copied ancient texts for monastic and private libraries. Imagine spending hours, day after day whether summer or winter, sitting at a slanted wooden table and copying a book, word for word, onto sheets of parchment. Perhaps their eyes drooped, or their fingers and hands ached from such dedicated labor. But someone had to do it, otherwise so much knowledge, so much history, would have been lost to the future generations.
            We owe a lot to those tireless men and women, and to those a thousand years ago and more who understood the importance of knowledge and the written word.

How parchment is made – Domesday – BBC Two

Medieval Manuscript Reproduction, Part 1: Pricking (BygoneArts)

Medieval Manuscript Reproduction, Part 3a: Writing (BygoneArts)

Medieval Manuscript Reproduction, Part 3c: Erasing a mistake (BygoneArts)

Medieval Manuscript Reproduction, Part 5a: Painting an Illuminated Letter (Bygone Arts)

Parchment and Paper – NYPL’s Three Faiths Scriptorium

Pens, Paint-making, and Illumination – NYPL’s Three Faiths Scriptorium

Writing – NYPL’s Three Faiths Scriptorium

PS: If you would like to hear a little “Medieval Rock,” I recommend Mediaeval Baebes (Temptasyon; Salva Nos; and Blow Northern Wind) or Blackmore’s Night (Just Call My Name; Under a Violet Moon; and Way to Mandalay Bay). Yes, you can find some of their music on YouTube though sometimes there are different versions.

BLURB: An engineer dedicated to saving Venice from the rising seas, fails in his task. As a severe storm and high tides threaten to burst through the flood walls, he resolves to remain in Venice with a ghostly lover who claimed his heart years before. A woman from his staff who loves him, does not evacuate, but remains to battle his ghostly lover before he dies in a sinking Venice…

EXCERPT: The dull booms, like the measured beats of a primeval heart, echoed through the gray drizzling afternoon. Each boom was a countdown to a finely predicted cataclysm that man, through his mistaken notion that he could control nature, had finally admitted that he was powerless to hold back.
            Dr. Gregorio Romano, tall, with dark brown hair and watchful hazel eyes, stood before the open tall narrow window of his corner office in the ornate, gilded Ducal Palace of the once La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia, the Most Serene Republic of Venice, and peered into the gray drizzle toward the unseen barrier islands. The almost submerged islands of Lido and Pellestrina, with their channels opening onto the Adriatic Sea, formed the southeastern perimeter of the timeless Venetian lagoon. He listened to the echoing booms of the rising, stormy Adriatic, and thought of a mythical, prehistoric mother who gave birth to an imaginative species that dreamed of the impossible and often made it happen. And now the mother was ready to take back one of the greatest dreams of her children, ready to clasp it deep within her bosom.
            “Yes,” he replied as he gazed at the gray choppy waters of the lagoon.
            “Have you reconsidered? Are you ready to evacuate?”
            “Not yet.” Gregorio tilted his head slightly as a sleek dark gondola glided effortlessly across frothy, white-capped waters and halted before the flooded wharf, the Riva degli Schiavoni, in front of the Palace.
            Patrizia Celentano, the first and last female gondolier of Venice, looked up at him and gave a friendly wave. He raised a hand in return. Her gondola was a traditionally built and shaped boat, but rather than the traditional black as required by law, she painted it a dark wine color. Though she offered to erect a shelter to protect Gregorio from the elements, he always preferred to ride in the open.
            “We can evacuate you by force if necessary.”
            “You won’t,” Gregorio smiled as he turned to face his computer on the polished wooden desk. The broad, bearded face of his boss, Dr. Niccolo Ricci, nodded in agreement. “There’s no need, and a helicopter is scheduled to pick me up from the roof of my home tomorrow morning at 0600 hours.”
            “The calculations might be incorrect. The gates could break tonight...”


SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 grandchildren, and a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). He has served in the Army National Guard since October 2004, and holds the rank of staff sergeant. He is a published photographer and photojournalist, an aspiring painter, and is studying for a degree in photography and anthropology—hopefully to someday work in underwater archaeology. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories, and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, Ruthie’s Club, Lucrezia Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. As of December 2011, he became the latest homeless Iraq war veteran in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Wow, Stan, you have been one busy guy!  You are full of interesting facts and your book sounds like a great one. I wish you tons of success and I want to thank you for stopping by to visit with me.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Marian Lanouette teases us with a taste of her book, Burn In Hell

Penny, I want to thank you for hosting me today. I'm excited about my newest release. It's the second book in the Jake Carrington Mystery series, Burn in Hell. It's an exciting time for me and Jake. In September 2012 we saw the first book published and five short months later the second hit the shelves last week.
Single again after he and Mia broke up Jake meets and starts dating a woman who runs a cemetery/crematory. Kyra's (Key-ra) job doesn't bother Jake until he finds evidence she is burning bodies for the mob along with the legitimate ones.  Here's a little taste from the beginning of the book. I hope you and your guests enjoy it.


Excerpt Burn in Hell:
With her head down, she sat at her machine, waiting on the supervisor to come back—to unlock the machine so she could play again. More than anything, she needed to win. A hand landed on her shoulder, startling her. Jerking away, Kyra turned to see who belonged to the hand. Crap, not the supervisor. Joe Dillon, not exactly the person I want to see right now.
“Hi, Kyra.”
“Hey, Joe.”
“How’s it going?” Her host sat down next to her.
“Not good,” she whined.
“I’m sorry to hear it. You know you have a payment due soon?”
Double crapola. “Yes, I know.”
“Why don’t you leave the machine for a while? Come have something to eat with me?”
What could he be up to, she wondered?
“Why? Kyra, let’s discuss your loan payment over dinner, explore your options.”
What options? There weren’t any. All week she racked her brain trying to find a solution to the mess. Though a quiet guy, Joe scared her. Deep inside, she understood he could destroy her. Not a person she’d want to cross.
“Kyra? Please, no one’s going to touch your machine. Maybe a break will change your luck?”
“What the hell. I could eat,” Kyra hissed. Something had to change.
“How about a steak?”
They got up at the same time, bumping into each other. Joe sat back down, let Kyra get up first. He followed her as she headed to the Trenton Steak House. Joe grabbed her arm and pointed to the private elevator that went directly to the entrance to the Whale Room. She looked at him. He smiled.
“What’s up, Joe?”
“I think you need a real break Kyra, so we’ll head up.”
Curiosity got the better of her, but she figured she’d find out what he was up to in good time. Then the fear hit her. Maybe she shouldn’t leave the floor with him. She owed the casino seventy-five thousand dollars. Behind on her payments, she spent three grand tonight trying to win her next payment. Stupid—how could I be so stupid? I should’ve made a partial payment with the three grand instead of gambling tonight. They wouldn’t beat up her up, would they? Tasting the bile as it violently pushed up from her stomach, scorching a path to her throat. Kyra couldn’t control the tears that flooded into her eyes when she started to choke.
“Are you all right, Kyra?”
“I don’t want to leave the public floor, Joe.” Kyra’s hands shook along with her entire body. Unable to control her voice as it cracked, her mind searching for an escape.
“I have a deal for you, but I can’t discuss it in an open area. We’ll discuss it upstairs, over dinner.” He smiled.
Oh yeah, she thought, the farmer leading the cow to the slaughter. “What kind of deal?”
“We’ll discuss it upstairs,” he repeated firmly.
“You’re not going to break my legs or anything like that. Are you?” she half-heartily joked.
“No such thing, Kyra. Relax.” Now’s the time too really worry, she thought. Just like the “trust me” phrase, it gave her the willies.
* * * *
Joe Dillon studied Kyra as they rode up in the elevator. To look at her, you’d never guess she’d lost control of her life. He liked her curves, her full lips, and the wild, curly red hair. Shorter than he, she stood about five feet four inches—he didn’t like looking up at a woman. Too many women today were taller than him. He looked into her green, green eyes, his mind taking off in all directions. Not now, Joe. Kyra’s not worth the trouble. He knew she had a son—her divorce a by-product of gambling. The boss told him this morning she was losing custody of her son. What woman gambles to the point of losing her child? Joe thought about the deal he’d be offering her, dragging her down even further. He pushed the guilt from his mind. Not my fucking problem. Kyra did this to herself. If I ever caught Camile gambling, I’d break her legs. Joe saw what gambling did to families. Too much heartache for too little reward, he mused.
Joe thought of the deal he’d lay on the table for her—two choices—wondering which one she’d choose. Neither was pleasant. I’m only the messenger. That’s how he justified his work. Blinded by greed, these people put themselves in this position with their gambling addictions.

One of ten children, Marian took to writing to explore new and adventurous places. While her friends traveled on planes for vacation, Marian traveled in books. With an overactive imagination, it didn’t take long for her to start creating her own characters and stories. If I Fail, A Jake Carrington Mystery that released in 2012, is the first book in the series.
As an avid reader, she discovered mysteries by reading the Daily News as a youngster. Intrigued by the real life crimes, and how the police worked and eventually solved them, ignited her imagination beyond the ordinary.
An English professor marked her final paper with an A, but wrote a note that said, “Well done, though you’re not Virginia Woolf yet, so add a little action to the story.” That one line had her punching up the action in stories to come.
Marian has many plans (books) for Jake Carrington and his crew. She invites you to discover these wonderful characters and share your impressions at: or
Buy links: I'll have the Amazon ones soon for Burn in Hell and As the World Ends (I'll forward them as I get them.) Thank you, Marian
As the World Ends is also scheduled for release in January 2013.
Burn in Hell Book trailer:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Janet Evanovich stops by Penny's Tales!

Janet, I am so thrilled and honored that you took the time to visit my blog today.  I know you are extremely busy so let me get started.

1) Having the huge successes you have had with all your books, especially the Stephanie Plum series, did you ever consider giving up, due to rejection letters?
        One dark moment, after I'd written three novels over 10 years and couldn't get arrested, I took my box of rejection letters to the front curb and burned them, box and all.  The next day, I went out and got a temp job.  Four months later, my agent called to say that he'd made a sale and I've been writing ever since.

2) Your fabulous books just keep coming.  Where do you find the time to write, blog, make appearances, and everything else you do in a single day?
        It takes good time management.  I start work every day around 6 a.m. and work for at least eight hours, seven days a week.  And I don't blog or tweet!

3) How did you ever come up with the Stephanie Plum idea and did you ever imagine this series would be as huge as it is?

        Well, first of all, I never imagined it would be as huge as it is today.  In 1992, I was primarily a romance writer.  I went to the movies and saw a film I really loved -- Midnight Run -- a funny bounty hunter story with Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin.  I thought that if I made a protagonist a reluctant female bounty hunter, I might get a good book out of it.  That was 21 Plum books ago.

Thank you again Janet for stopping by.  You are a true inspiration to me and many other authors out there.  I can hardly wait for November when # 18 will be out!

This was posted on my blog over a year ago.  I just finished Notorious Nineteen.  Janet Evanovich never disappoints and just keeps pumping out fabulous stories.  Now the wait begins for #20!