Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Quotation taken from Spice of Life

As I haven’t published a Friday Quote for some time, I decided today I would make the effort and have found one taken from Spice of Life by J. Thurston Thrower published in 1950. The book belonged to my husband’s grandfather and is a bit brown round the edges and also much of it is quite dated, but some quotes and sayings are as relevant today as they ever were. This particular quote is accredited to Grenville Kleiser and reads as follows:

Don’t be greedy!

‘Constantly reaching out for something just beyond your grasp tends to bring discontent rather than happiness. It is destructive to your tranquillity of mind to envy others what you have not; to want too many of the things you see around you and to dwell overmuch upon your own desires.

Use and enjoy what you have now, be grateful for present opportunities and trust your ability and the future to bring what is best for you. Happiness does not depend upon great material possessions, but emanates largely from the mental qualities of contentment, confidence, and serenity.’

Have a great weekend and I look forward to sharing some more quotes and sayings from this lovely book with you


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How do you find names for your characters?

I am about to embark on my fourth novel and have ideas running around in my head, and characters that I want to write about, but my difficulty seems to be in selecting names for these characters. The main character – Libby – in my third novel, went through several name changes before I settled on Libby. I chose Elizabeth as the character’s name, then Libby because it is a derivative of Elizabeth and also she became a liberated woman! I sift through pages of male and female names, perhaps pick one or two, then change my mind. Some names conjure up people from my past who I haven’t liked – they, of course, will turn out to be the baddies! But for the main characters I really struggle. Does anyone else have this problem? and if so, what system do you use to select character names? One person I know just puts any name in while she is writing her story, then goes back and changes the names to more suitable ones at the end. I can’t do that, as to me the character is real from the word go and has to have a proper name.

I would love to hear any suggestions.


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Review of Pandora’s Succession by Russell Brooks

Pandora's SuccessionPandora’s Succession by Russell Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Any thriller involving the KGB, the CIA and various other criminal organisations will usually be a good read. Throw in Ridley Fox, a CIA agent whose fiancé has recently been murdered, and we have a far-fetched plot involving life-threatening microbes. The plot reminded me of a James Bond movie. The author has obviously put a lot of hard work into creating all the characters, and coming up with such a complicated plot, but unless the reader can manage to take in large chunks of the story in one go, it is sometimes difficult to remember who is who and who is on whose side. I found myself having to go back a couple of pages sometimes to refresh my memory. It was a long novel, but I did manage to read it all. I was given a free copy of this book.

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Review of Jasmine Close – Series One, Episodes 1-5 by Linda Dunscombe

Jasmine Close - Episodes 1 - 5 (Jasmine Close Series One)Jasmine Close – Episodes 1 – 5 by Linda Dunscombe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Linda Dunscombe must have been inspired to come up with the idea of a soap opera for Kindle! Who needs to watch a soap on the television, when you can curl up and read episode after episode of Jasmine Close at your leisure. The characters come to life on the page; I was hooked from the very beginning with all the different people moving into the new housing estate. Having been asked if I would review these episodes and enjoying them so much, I have now bought episodes 6-10, 11-15 and 16-20. Well done Linda. I am sure Jasmine Close will run and run.

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Guest Blog by Bart Stewart, Author of Painter of the Heavens

Painter of the HeavensI have just read a great book by Bart Stewart and asked him if he would kindly ‘guest’ on my blog. You can read my review written in December 2013. Here is what he has to say:

Hello from Bart Stewart!

My thanks go out to Shirley Ford for reviewing my debut novel, Painter of the Heavens, and allowing me to introduce myself to you here. I’m Bart Stewart, originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. Currently I reside in the orbit of Boston, Massachusetts. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, chasing agents and publishers without success since roughly my early adulthood (of decades past.) My experience with writing fiction has always had two components: Enthusiastic reader response – and majestic, glacial silence from the industry. My plan is to self-publish from now on, with the hope of building a following over time beginning with this book.
I have one other book on Amazon, a collection of surreal fantasy stories that I released in print format in 2006. If you will allow me the cliché, it drew rave reviews. The too-long title of that book is Tales of Real and Dream Worlds. It won a finalist prize at the National Indie Excellence Awards in 2008. I’m quite proud of it, but I think it may have suffered from having a cover that screams “Horror,” while only about half of the stories are truly that. The other half are suspenseful, eerie, and certainly thought provoking, but not scary. A friend talked me into releasing a trilogy of the most frightening of the Tales as an eBook, so, that is on Amazon as well. (Links provided below.) Someday I will expand and re-issue this book, but I have a couple more novels in mind first.
I have adopted a little trademark with my writing; whenever possible I set the story in North Carolina. I know the atmosphere of the place and its people. Growing up there, I became acutely aware that no book, movie, or TV show story-line was ever set in North Carolina. American stories are set in one of two places: New York City or Los Angeles. A space alien monitoring our television signals would think that this planet consisted of those two locations. When I began writing, I resolved that my stories would be situated in North Carolina. The state has four distinct seasons, none overwhelmingly dominant. It has an ancient rolling mountain range to the west and a scenic Atlantic coast to the east. With the exception of Charlotte and a couple of smaller cities, North Carolina is wooded, rural and dotted with small towns.
Painter of the Heavens happens here, in the university town of Chapel Hill, with side trips to London, and the deserts of west Texas. This book is literary suspense, dealing with a woman’s love affair with a mysterious, charismatic fellow who, sadly, turns out to be a con artist. The point of view in the book is all hers, so we don’t know whether he is planning any foul play against her, which is the suspense of the story. He is definitely plotting a crime, a major forgery fraud, as he reveals to her about midway into the book. He has faked up a historical letter that he believes will net millions at auction. Lyle needs an accomplice for this particular scheme, and his eyes have turned to Penny.
Life has never been easy for Penny Sturdevant, and as our story begins, she is turning thirty just as she emerges from a bitter divorce. The marriage was supposed to have lifted her out of the cycle of poverty she had always known before, but over time, her husband had turned cold and dull; emotionally detached. It took all the personal strength and resolve Penny could muster to leave him and the security he offered. Now she wants something real and fulfilling in her life. What she ends up with is Lyle Chilton.
He is the manager of an indie bookstore in an old house in the woods outside of Chapel Hill. Back of the beyond, as Shirley described it. She meets him quite by chance. Lyle’s impact on her is hypnotic from the start. She finds him even more compelling and charismatic as she gets to know him during a series of dates that unfold in the first third of the book. Unfortunately, hints of a dark side start turning up. He was eccentric from the start, but disturbing moods begin appearing. He can pivot from light-heartedness to utter wartime gravity. He can be slightly controlling. Penny shrugs it off, as the good times are sweet, and she considers herself past due for something positive.
Lyle is a mass of mixed signals, which may be the result of a deeply conflicted personality. Is he a psychopath? He has the supreme self-confidence that is a trait of that condition. He would have to be unrealistically self-confident to attempt his outlandish crime. He is a somewhat exotic mentality. Penny on the other hand is someone you might actually know.
Her simple desire to live a fulfilling life is poignant. She wants to be “part of something,” she says. She wants a satisfying love life, but also to be part of something beyond that. Her needs are entirely healthy. The pathos of the novel is her struggle to attain them in this mercenary world. Lyle seems increasingly suspicious, even menacing as time goes by. Is his convoluted mind capable of genuine love? He claims he loves her, and wants to share his life with her—forever. He says all kinds of things. He sincerely means some of them. These matters are unresolved as the plot unfolds.
Painter of the Heavens is a little different, but I hope always to avoid the formulaic. I call this book character-driven noir fiction, and “A Novel of Crime and the Heart.” It is presently available only in digital format, but you can read the first 25 pages for free on its Amazon page:
As noted earlier, a friend convinced me to pluck three of the scarier short stories from my first book and release them as an eBook on Kindle. Thus, here you will find the trilogy called The Statuary Cats:
Management assumes no responsibility for any fright-induced heart attacks.
I am here in the Boston area, single, happy, and hard at work on my next novel, hoping to launch in the summer of 2014. I have another one in mind after that. No more seven-year hibernations. I also have a social media writing service: Follow me on Twitter, @BartStewart1, and look through my free-wheeling blog at
Remember—ultimately, we’re all indies.
Bart Stewart, Boston, Massachusetts

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